Reposted social media complaints upheld by ABAC

Two small breweries have been on the receiving end of ABAC complaints regarding their social media, highlighting the need for brewers to be aware of reposting content from other sources.

Boston Brewing Co.

WA’s Boston Brewing Co. has faced an ABAC panel over a post to social media featuring a child.

The advertising watchdog received a complaint in June which argued that marketing materials featuring a baby as the main feature of a brewery advertisement is “unnatural and inappropriate”.

The post was actually published to Instagram in January 2019 – highlighting the need for brewers to review historic social media posts, which ABAC warned against earlier in the year.

Boston Brewing Co. responded to the complaints saying that the criticism of the historic social media post “feels like someone has a bit of an axe to grind about something”.

“The post was reposted as we are a family friendly environment, it was not our original content. A patron called @thecraftytraveller had posted this post which obviously depicts that a family had enjoyed their time at the brewery,” a spokesperson from Boston wrote to the ABAC panel.

“An adult’s arm can be seen holding up the child and it is a light-hearted, good natured post about a family day out. We do not support children or patrons under the age of 18 drinking alcohol and have a fantastic record with the local police who check through the venue regularly without complaint.”

Despite its rebuttal, Boston Brewing deleted the post.

ABAC stipulates that marketing materials are banned from showing a person who is or appears to be a minor – unless they are shown in an incidental role in a natural situation where there is no implication they will consume or serve alcohol. The code uses the example of a family socialising responsibly as conforming to this rule.

The ABAC panel acknowledged Boston’s argument that the post was not original material, but said that once adopted by an alcohol company, third party material added to a social media account controlled by the company becomes a marketing communication which is the jurisdiction of ABAC.

It said that clearly the baby pictured would not be reasonably considered to consume or serve alcohol, although this could not be said if the child was older. However as it features the child as the main figure, it cannot be regarded as incidental of background to the scene and thus breached the rules.

It advised that while each case must be assessed on its own merits, “the better position is not to place minors irrespective of age so directly with an alcohol product”.

The ABAC panel accepted that in reposting the image the company had no intention to encourage underage drinking or an “irresponsible approach to alcohol use” and upheld the complaint, acknowledging that the post was already removed.

Boston Brewing Co. received another complaint in relation to its Peach Lemonade back in May highlighting the issues around the packaging of non-beer products.

Shifty Lizard Brewing Co

Shifty Lizard Brewing Co. based at Old Noarlunga, south of Adelaide, was also on the receiving end of a complaint regarding its social media posts and the packaging shown in them, and has said it will change its packaging as a result.

Two posts from April showed images featuring the design of Shift Lizard’s Seshn Ale. A complainant said that the posts showing the character featured drinking two beers in a swimming pool were “inappropriate”.

The third from January portrayed a woman in the sea drinking a Shifty Lizard beer, which, like Boston Brewing’s post, was a repost from a beer fan’s Instagram account. The complaint again said this was inappropriate.

ABAC stipulates that marketing materials cannot encourage or show excessive or rapid alcohol consumption, irresponsible or offensive behaviour or alcohol consumption during an activity that requires a high degree of alertness or physical coordination, such as swimming.

Shifty Lizard responded and said it was ‘line ball’ as to whether the packaging breached ABAC standards.

“Our character is not seen floating but standing. All be it not really the point here. We don’t believe that it is promoting excessive consumption but more a relaxed feel,” a spokesperson for the brewery responded.

“However, as we see it this way, we can see how it could be taken the wrong way, and with this in light, we are re-designing this image to take the cans out of his hands and will have new labels in circulation within 3-6 months.”

The repost was deleted, but the ABAC panel’s response was an important factor to consider for breweries with regards to cartoon or animated imagery. It said that the cartoon of the lizard figure shown drinking open tins of alcohol in the pool may not be promoting excessive drinking, but it is shown swimming, thus breaching the code.

Similarly, the repost of the Instagrammer depicts swimming and the consumption of alcohol.Both were ruled to be in breach of ABAC.

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