A spike in complaints about alcohol consumption in advertising

Ashley Regan
By Ashley Regan | 20 July 2023
Quan Nguyen via Unsplash

Australians complain about excessive alcohol drinking in advertising the most, according to alcohol advertising watchdog ABAC's (Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code) June quarter report.

ABAC complaints and determinations have in general continued to double this quarter, while pre-vetting requests are down by 10%, compared to last year. With 21 complaints in 2022 to 51 complaints in 2023 and 4 upheld determinations in 2022 to 10 upheld determinations in 2023. 

Showing excess or rapid consumption of alcohol caused the majority of breaches last quarter, ABAC chair Harry Jenkins said.

"I urge marketers to move away from using these themes and images in their social media posts. Often these themes are shown humorously, and the new Code makes it very clear that treating excessive or rapid consumption as amusing is a clear breach of responsible alcohol marketing standards," Jenkins said.

Cheeky Monkey Brewing breached the code as drinking two cans of alcohol at the same time is considered as excessive alcohol consumption. Further, the pouring of alcohol from a height into a person’s mouth portrays that the consumption is rapid. 

Cheeky Monkey Brewing

Cheeky Monkey Brewing social media post via ABAC.

Better Beer also breached Part 3 of the code as its social media posts show rapid consumption, irresponsible and offensive behaviour and also depicted minors.

Better Beer

Better Beer social media posts via ABAC.

Packaging with soft drink and confectionery themes is also an area that attracts public complaints. The new Code provides greater clarity and updates around the meaning of ‘strong or evident’ Jenkins said.

Brewer Billson's has been pinged under the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code for its packaging three times due to the similarity of colours and product names to soft drinks and confectionery typically consumed by minors.

 Billson’s Sour Blueberry

Billson's vodka packaging.

The ABAC Panel continues to receive complaints about ads showing alcohol use before or during swimming.

The community is concerned about this issue due to the increased risk associated with these activities after alcohol has been consumed and this continues as a key provision in the new Code Jenkins said.

Social media posts from Gilligan’s Hotel Cairns breached the code for promoting swimming in conjunction with alcohol consumption. 

Gilligan’s Hotel Cairns

Gilligan's Hotel Cairns social media posts via ABAC.

The ABAC's revised and strengthened Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code start August 1.

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