VB faces ABAC over social media reposts

Victoria Bitter has been the subject of complaints to advertising watchdog ABAC for reposting user-generated content on its Instagram account.

The first complaint, regarding an Instagram post from May 2020, featured a cartoon image of someone drinking with rollerskates on. The complainant said that “rollerskating is an activity that requires a high degree of alertness and physical coordination”, aping the code’s own wording.

Carlton and United Breweries-owned VB responded saying it was an “extreme reach” on the part of the complainant to suggest it was encouraging the irresponsible use of its product by reposting the artwork, which it said was the work of London-based digital artist Tiana. It said it had no connection to the artist apart from reposting the work.

The brewer also argued that it did not think a ‘reasonable person’ would consider the post a breach of the code, saying; “we find it utterly bizarre that someone would extrapolate an encouragement of dangerous behaviour from an illustrated image composed of two legs with feet in rollerskates and a hand holding a can of Victoria Bitter”.

“Even if we allow the assumption that VB’s Instagram followers lack the common sense to interpret artistic licence, the figure is clearly seated.”

VB argued that the person depicted is not depicted as drinking while roller skating, although conceded it could appear that they are drinking prior to undertaking the activity. It also mentioned the proliferation of roller disco parties, citing Moon Dog Craft Brewery’s 2018 Sunday Funday Roller Disco as an example.

An ABAC panel responded to VB by saying that roller skating had an element of risk – a report it cited showed a hospitalisation rate for roller sports such as rollerskating, inline skating and skateboarding of 1,175 per 100,000 participants – “only marginally less than the rate for the contact sports of rugby union and rugby league” – clearly indicating that rollerskating requires a high degree of coordination.

It concluded that the post does breach ABAC because while it is unlikely to be understood as a call to action to drink whilst rollerskating, it does show an open can of VB which indicates “a direct implication of consumption”.

The complaint was upheld.

The second ruling focused on another Instagram post by VB, also from May 2020.

The complainant said they believed the person featured in the post was under 25 years of age.

ABAC stipulates that alcohol marketing communications cannot depict an adult under 25 years of age unless they are not visually prominent or they are not a paid model or actor and are shown in a marketing communication that has been age restricted.

VB responded to the complaint by saying that the post, which was another repost from another Instagram user, does not breach the code. It said that the Instagram user is not a paid model or actor and it was reposted solely within the age-restricted environment of the VB Instagram account.

An ABAC panel ruled that the person featured was a private individual with no marketing affiliation to VB, but also that Instagram had a special position as it allowed age restrictions on accounts.

Therefore, it said, the content created by the individual reposted on the company’s account is not in breach of the ABAC standard “even if it is accepted that the woman in the post is aged under 25 years”.

It dismissed the complaint.


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