Dismissals outweigh in record year for ABAC

While ABAC waded through a record number of complaints in 2020, almost three quarters were dismissed by the adjudication panel in the last three months.

For the past three quarters, there has been close parity between the number of complaints dismissed and the number upheld, but in the last quarter, 15 were dismissed in comparison to six upheld complaints. Three were held to be a ‘no-fault’ breach in its Q4 results.

While it has yet to publish its annual report, ABAC did make general observations on the complaint activity in 2020, in which it made a record number of determinations.

Of the 64 complaints made in total, 41 raised code issues, with three bringing up issues consistently dismissed by the panel.

ABAC urged alcohol marketers to ensure all digital marketing activity, particularly social media marketing, meets its code standards prior to publication.

ABAC judgements

ABAC also published a number of adjudications relating to a Byron Bay Lager TV advertisement which faced its second complaint after going up against ABAC in 2020, and also the packaging of a number of Cheeky Monkey Brewing Co. beers.

Similar to the previous complaint, Byron Bay Lager’s TV advert was described by the complainant as “targeted to young Australians” with a focus on skateboarding, which is popular amongst teenagers, they said.

The complainant said the advert, which features skateboarders and surfers with unopened packs of lager before meeting at the end of the day to drink the beer, promotes drinking in public, and finished by saying “I believe this is not responsible advertising”.

Byron Bay Lager owner Lion responded by saying that they believed it was unlikely a reasonable person would interpret the events of the advert as encouraging responsible behaviour or appealing to minors.

The ABAC adjudication panel agreed, saying that the skateboarding was used to demonstrate the “relaxed lifestyle” of Byron Bay, and that any appeal to minors is considered incidental rather than strong or evident. It dismissed the complaint.

In another complaint published this week, WA’s Cheeky Monkey Brewing Co. was again the recipient of a complaint for its packaging.

The complaint related to three limited-edition, Christmas-themed can designs including its S.A.N.T.A 10% abv Christmas East Coast IIPA, its Hoppy Passionfruit Cheeky Christmas Sour and its Three Bears DDH Oatcream IPA, but also its Sherby Summer Ale.

The complainant said that they all have very strong appeal to minors based on the cartoon Christmas character artwork, which a child might misinterpret as a soft drink or children’s beverage.

They said that Sherby is a lolly that “I don’t think has a strong appeal to adults” and that a child would not know that an IPA is a high strength beer and may just assume from the can design it was meant for a minor.

The brewery responded by email saying: “Cheeky Monkey Brewing Co would like to thank ABAC for their services and will take the complaints feedback onboard, however, we
will not be responding on this occasion.”

The panel reached the verdict that three of the Christmas-themed cans were in breach of the rules which prevent marketing having a strong or evident appeal to minors, or from resembling a soft drink.

It said that while Christmas imagery has broad appeal, some aspects would specifically appeal to minors, such as the cartoon Santa character and snowman. They said they were only “ambiguously identified” as alcoholic beverages.

With the Sherby Summer Ale, however, the panel ruled that the packaging did not breach the standard, as it adopts a “sedate style” which is not necessarily eye-catching for minors, that ale is a well-recognised alcohol descriptor and that taken as a whole, it would not have strong or evident appeal to minors.

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