Brewers face ABAC over social media and posters

The ABAC panel has dismissed a complaint against VB over its fragrance Thirst as well as considered complains against Pirate Life, Moo Brew and an NRL player’s Bloke in a Bar beer brand.

Social media posts have again figured, though have been relatively recent compared to the complaints about historic social media marketing. Pirate Life received a third complaint about the same beers in the past year, while Bloke in a Bar beer brand founded by NRL player Denan Kemp was criticised for showing a man drinking a ‘shoey’.

VB Fragrance

The VB Thirst Fragrance, launched in August, quickly became the “fastest-selling Australian fragrance ever” selling 25,000 bottles in 72 hours.

A complainant wrote to ABAC to criticise advertisements about the fragrance advertised at a Chemist Warehouse store.

The unnamed person said that the fragrance was marketed as an appropriate gift for Father’s Day, and therefore appealed to children and young people.

They suggested one of the Father’s Day posters, showing an image of a child hugging a man, meant that children and young people visiting the Chemist Warehouse could be exposed to the VB brand.

Marketing placement rules and ABAC’s rule preventing marketing having a strong or evident appeal to minors places restrictions on the positioning of advertisements.

Carlton & United Breweries responded rejecting the complaint, and the interpretation that the product or associated advertising could appeal to minors.

It asserted that it does not have control over the final context of Chemist Warehouse advertising, and said that the creatives in the marketing which it did have control over were not aimed at minors, saying that “the median age of fathers is much higher than 17 years or below” and that 85 per cent of Chemist Warehouse customers are adults.

In addition, there are no cartoons or bright colours, and the figure of the child is allowed to be shown as they are featured incidentally in a natural situation, without the implication they would consume alcohol.

An ABAC panel responded saying that the VB Thirst branding could fall into its alcohol brand extensions category, and VB had reasonable control over the marketing.

The panel said that using its ‘reasonable persons’ test, it does not believe the poster is in breach of the code, as it uses dark colours and characters. It said that placement rules do not prohibit placement within and outside Chemist Warehouse, or any shopping centre as such, as it was not within proximity of a school.

It said the VB branding is not inherently strongly appealing to minors, and even though a minor is pictured, it does not alter the “overall impression” that it is clearly aimed at adult males. It dismissed the complaint.

Bloke in a Bar beer

Founded by former NRL player Denan Kemp, the Bloke in a Bar brand was subject to a complaint about an Instagram post showing a man drinking a beer out of a shoe. The complaint said it could encourage rapid consumption of alcohol, which is prohibited by the ABAC code.

A company spokesperson responded to the complaint saying “I’m aware of the rules surrounding the promotion of excessive or rapid drinking” but that they felt they did not breach these standards, as the person was drinking less than two mouthfuls of beer poured into the shoe.Despite this, the post was removed.

“Because although I don’t feel it breached guidelines the fact that the question has been raised is enough for me to remove it. That is not what this brand stands for and we will be even more diligent going forward to completely remove any chance of this happening again,” the spokesperson said.

The ABAC judging panel noted that this was the second determination about Kemp’s alcohol business.

They said that while the company may have not intended to show rapid alcohol consumption, the ‘reasonable person’ test would understand otherwise, and without any context, it does not depict a moderate or responsible approach to alcohol use. It upheld the complaint.

Moo Brew

Tasmania’s Moo Brew has had a complaint concerning an Instagram post from September 2020 upheld.

The post shows a man drinking a beer with a caption reading “double the hops, double the happiness”.

The anonymous complainant said this suggests that your mood can be affected by drinking beer. They said this was “inappropriate” for a beer ad.

Like the other ads, it was not pre-vetted. Moo Brew responded saying that pre-vetting for social media activity would reduce its ability to communicate with its customer base and that it always seeks to advertise responsibly.

The Hobart brewery said that it has particularly focused on its advertising not appealing to minors or showing consumption during a physical activity requiring high alertness “because of the recent proliferation of rulings against craft breweries.”

Moo Brew said it did not feel the post breached the standards because it depicted a reaction about the flavour rather than the alcohol content of the beer. It said its description focused on the tasting notes of the beer and its heightened flavour profile, and the alcohol content was not even mentioned until later in the post.

Despite its arguments, the ABAC panel said that the image shows a strong reaction to the consumption of alcohol, and the strapline ‘double the happy’ implies that there would be a significant impact on the drinker’s mood. It upheld the complaint.

Pirate Life

Pirate Life’s Burton collaboration Frontside Ale faced the panel again, for the third time in nearly a year, and the second time specifically for the brewery’s ‘Winter Missions’ videos.

Similar to the previous complaints, the latest concerns a number of YouTube videos which show snowboarders drinking the beer. In the first, host Ryan Tiene and snowboarder Matty J appear sitting, talking about their day drinking a Burton x Pirate Life Frontside Ale just before the credits roll.

The remaining posts are marketing collateral in the same vein relating to the video, posted to Facebook and Instagram.

The complainant argues that the product placement shows people drinking alcohol while participating in activities that require a high degree of alertness and physical coordination.

Pirate Life responded saying it was clear that the beer was being drunk at the end of the day, and if the YouTube video does not breach the code, then its associated marketing materials on Facebook and Instagram do not either.

The ABAC judging panel agreed with the brewery, saying that the overall context of the video implies that the snowboarding is likely to have been finished by the time the beers were drunk, and therefore dismissed the complaint.

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