Advertising placement and packaging face ABAC
With ABAC complaints rising, adjudications over Better Beer and Lion’s White Rabbit have highlighted the issues of advertising placement and packaging designs.
A complaint over a TikTok video posted by Better Beer co-owners of The Inspired Unemployed raised the issue of alcohol advertising regulations within the platform.
Elsewhere, Bucketty’s Brewing Co and Lion both faced panels concerning packaging that may appeal to minors.
Mighty Craft’s Better Beer has faced an ABAC panel over a video posted to The Inspired Unemployed’s TikTok account promoting a competition to win a car.
The video featured both Matt Ford and Jack Steele of The Inspired Unemployed and co-owners of Better Beer, along with others, performing a dance move while holding a glass of beer. The competition directed consumers to recreate the video and post to Instagram in order to go in the draw to win.
The complainant argued this was a direct violation of the ABAC code as it encouraged minors to “perform drinking beer acts for the chance to win a car”.
The ABAC code stipulates that alcohol marketing must not appeal to minors or be directed at minors by breaching any Placement Rules.
In this case, the Placement Rules policy states that alcohol marketing must use age restriction controls. If age controls are not available, the communication must be placed where the audience is at least 75 per cent adults.
Better Beer responded to the complaint by stating it has “reasonable control over the marketing” and while it had approved the posts for the Inspired Unemployed’s Instagram, it also has the ability to request Better Beer branded posts to be removed.
The brand also stated that social media pages for Better Beer do have age gates while the Inspired Unemployed do not and confirmed that more than 75 per cent of The Inspired Unemployed followers are above the age of 18.
While Tiktok does not permit paid alcohol advertising, it does allow for “organic content” referencing alcohol. The Inspired Unemployed’s video did not breach these policies, according to advice from the platform.
The ABAC panel concluded that the video did not breach the code and dismissed the complaint.
The panel also noted that the Placement Rules had not been breached, as TikTok does not currently provide age restriction controls and at least 75 per cent of The Inspired Unemployed’s audience on social media are adults.
“Taken as a whole, the video and a competition with a ute as the prize is more likely to appeal to adults with any appeal to minors being incidental rather than strong or evident,” the panel said.
Bucketty’s Brewing Co
The complainant argued that the design, which recently won bronze in the 2022 GABS Can Design Awards, had “flamboyant, bright colours” and appealed to minors.
Bucketty’s first responded to the complaint by stating the design clearly labelled the drink as alcoholic.
“The rear of the can states that it’s a community brewed beer, and BEER Product of Australia. It’s also noted as being a Pale Ale and 4.5% ABV on the front of the can,” the response read.
“Hopefully we haven’t breached the code, this can design was done by a local artist who donated their time and we’re using the funds raised to help Sydney Wildlife Rescue.
“Last year we did a similar can design and it was voted best in NSW with us raising over $10k.”
Initially, an ABAC panel determined that the can was in breach of the code due to “the overall impression of the packaging through the colour scheme”, however, Bucketty’s sought a re-hearing of this provisional determination.
In its resubmission, Bucketty’s asked the panel to consider the limited release nature of the beer as it was made with the aim to donate to charity.
“We don’t have a lot [of stock] left, but what does remain will make a big difference in our ability to divert profits to Sydney Wildlife Rescue,” the response read.
“Since this complaint was raised we’ve been comparing the Tawny Grogmouth 2.0 to other “cartoonish” craft beer labels and can’t see how our beer is substantially different to the vast majority of available products.”
The panel agreed that many products in the alcohol market may be in breach of the code however, since determinations are triggered by a public complaint, this should not be used as justification.
“It cannot be a justification for having marketing inconsistent with good standards to point to other marketing that had not been complained about any more than it would be a defence to a speeding ticket to say that there are other speeding cars,” it said.
The panel also noted that while profits will go towards charity, this also isn’t a “trade-off” to be used as justification.
“It is not valid however to trade off responsibility in marketing for another social good,” the panel said.
“Alcohol is not just another product. The misuse of alcohol is the cause of great health, social and economic harm. Responsible marketing is one element recognised in the National Alcohol Strategy by Australian governments in reducing harm from alcohol misuse.”
The panel made its final determination and upheld the complaint.
Kirrin-owned Lion’s White Rabbit Chocolate Stout has also faced an ABAC panel over its packaging design.
The complainant said that use of Pana Organic’s logo confuses the product as a confectionery product, which makes it appealing to minors.
Lion provided an extensive response to the complaint and argued that the product design does not include characteristics that would appeal to minors.
“The Packaging in question is a variation on the standard White Rabbit packaging, which is well-known among craft beer drinkers and uses a colour palette of neutral tones, with dark forest imagery and the brand’s namesake, the White Rabbit,” the response read.
“Pana Organic is positioned as and perceived as a more natural, healthy and environmentally-friendly and premium chocolate brand, primarily aimed at adults.
“By way of comparison to other confectionery brands, which have far greater appeal to children, using colourful imagery and animated characters as mascots, everything from Pana Organic’s colour scheme, brand positioning, and taste are unmistakably designed for an adult audience.”
The company also said the design has a ‘not for minors’ label on the back.
The panel concluded that the design did not breach the code and dismissed the complaint, as the colour palette, brand positioning of Pana Organic and clear labels of alcohol on the packaging did not appeal to minors.