Advertisers slam booze body over marketing claims

By Amy Kellow | 11 June 2013
Source: VB Facebook

VB, Carlton Draught, Jim Beam and Smirnoff have all been fingered for irresponsible advertising, by a body which aims to promote moderation in alcohol consumption and marketing. While turkeys don't vote for Christmas, the alcohol marketing industry has been slammed by the body, but advertisers have hit back, labelling it a farce.

These four are just some of the major brands who's attempts to self-regulate have been a "dismal failure", according to Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB). But the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has hit back, claiming the AARB has mislead the public.

The AARB, which is an independent alcohol advertising complaint review body, today launched the stinging attack on the alcohol industry's apparent inability to self-regulate its advertising. In a report it claimed that 80% of alcohol consumed by Australian youth aged 14-24 was done so in a way that put the drinker's and others' health at risk, and that advertising was to blame.

In addition to advertising, brands' sponsorships of music festivals and sporting events, packaging and cheap deals at liquor shops had led to an over-exposure of alcohol to young people, it argued.

The report also named and shamed the "Top 10 Alcohol Advertising Shockers of 2012-13". These included VB and XXXX's sponsorship of State of Origin, Carlton Draught's AFL ads and Jim Beam's Racing Kids Team clothing range. Smirnoff and Carlton Dry were also slammed by "targeting young people" with the sponsorship of music festivals.

Meanwhile, Skinnygirl Cocktails came under the hammer for its product packaging, along with VB for "disguising" alcohol advertising during a test cricket match. Thirsty Camel was rapped for having a Facebook page which promoted "excessive consumption" of alcohol.

It also listed the companies with the highest amount of complaints to the AARB. Lion was atop the chart with 36 complaints, followed by Carlton United Brewers (CUB) with 32. Beam Global Australia and Diaego received 18 and 16 respectively. Others included Woolworths, Wesfarmers, Campari and Accolade Wines. The body claims it received 200 complaints in total in 2012 - its first year of operation - and upheld 145 of them.

The report said: "[...] There is an urgent need to ensure stronger action to control irresponsible alcohol advertising and promotion. The self-regulatory alcohol advertising system in Australia has, in our view, consistently failed to prevent the exposure of children and young people to alcohol promotion and to ensure that all forms of alcohol advertising and promotion are socially responsible.

"We believe it makes no sense to leave regulation to an industry that not only seeks to sell as much of its product as possible, but opposes any significant constraints on its promotional activity and has a long record locally and internationally of supporting ineffective voluntary self-regulation."

Director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth, professor Mike Daube, said: "“Self-regulation by the alcohol and advertising industries is a dismal failure. It is time for governments to legislate, rather than leaving the protection of children and young people from alcohol harms in the hands of those whose job it is to sell as much as possible of the product.”

The AARB's argument, however, has been refuted by the Australian Association of National Advertisers. A spokesperson told AdNews: “The current self-regulatory system for alcohol advertising provides appropriate community safeguards and is underpinned by a responsive and transparent complaints handling system. We call on the AARB Board to stop misleading the Australian public and end the farce.”

“There is no evidence in Australia of a correlation between advertising and problem drinking. AANA supports responsible advertising of alcoholic beverages under the Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) and the ban of advertising to children embodied in the AANA Advertising and Marketing Communications to Children Code. There is a high level of compliance with ASB decisions under both Codes. 

"There is a low level of complaint about alcohol advertising – less than 3% of all complaints are about alcohol advertising”.

The AARB said its aim is to ensure alcohol advertising is socially responsible, neither conflicts nor detracts from the need for responsibility and moderation in liquor merchandising and consumption, and does not encourage young people to drink. Its codes have been constructed using provisions from existing codes established by alcohol industry bodies around the world.

The AARB was established by the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and the Cancer Council Western Australia. It is chaired by child health advocate, Professor Fiona Stanley AC.

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