Lion and Diageo refuse to engage with alcohol review board

By By Alexandra Roach | 6 August 2012
Smirnoff Vodka's official Facebook page.

Lion and Diageo have joined fellow alcohol advertiser CUB in slamming the new alcohol review board after its first determinations were released last week, denouncing it as "farcical" and lacking in credibility.

The recently formed Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB) released 44 determinations last Thursday, upholding 25 complaints against alcohol ads in full and 17 in part. Only two of the 44 complaints decided upon were dismissed.

Several large alcohol companies - including Lion, Diageo, CUB and Campari - have refused to engage with the AARB, adding to the debate surrounding the newly-formed body's usefulness.

One complaint upheld by the AARB related to Diageo vodka brand Smirnoff's Facebook page, which the ASB cleared of complaints the content was racist, sexist and linked binge drinking with sexual prowess.

The AARB fielded complaints the Facebook page “targeted” young people specifically and contains messages that “give consumers the idea there is urgency and they must try the new type of vodka ... or they are 'missing out'."

The complaint was upheld, but Diageo corporate relations director Bob Rayner told AdNews: “We have not engaged with the AARB as we do not believe this body holds any credibility or authority in the area of alcohol marketing regulation.”

Rayner told AdNews Diageo has “encouraged” the AARB to pass on complaints it receives to be judged against the Alcohol Beverage Advertising Code (ABAC).

“Diageo complies with the Alcohol Beverage Advertising Code and the codes of the Advertising Standards Bureau, which are well-established and respected mechanisms for effectively regulating alcohol marketing, in line with community expectations,” said Rayner.
“For our part, we will continue to work constructively with Government and other groups to ensure our marketing communications supports responsible drinking and meets community expectations.”

Lion external relations director Leela Sutton told AdNews the company is “a signatory to the ABAC". "[We] take our responsibilities very seriously”.

“Should a complaint against one of our advertisements be upheld [under the ABAC], we immediately discontinue its use or modify it accordingly,” Sutton said. “We limit this occurring by gaining approval of our advertising through an independent pre-vetter before it enters the market.”

Sutton told AdNews Lion “continues to innovate” in its line of products with a lower alcohol content. She said the company  recognises it has "a role to play in reducing the misuse of alcohol in the community”.

Complaints against outdoor ads for Lion's Toohey's New brand campaign 'Supporting Mateship' were upheld by the AARB for promoting alcohol consumption as a way to social success and acceptance and a way to relax.

The ASB dismissed complaints about the television variant of the campaign last month.

Sutton told AdNews: “It is a shame these groups have diverted so much of their time to this farcical Code, rather than engaging with industry directly to address their concerns.”

Both companies have refused to comply with the AARB's demands to withdraw ads.

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