ABAC breach referred to Victoria’s liquor authority

January 17, 2022
By Ioni Doherty

Just one ABAC breach was referred to a liquor licensing authority last year, with the vast majority of code breaches in a record year of complaints able to be remedied promptly.

Wet Pussy’s packaging was found to have breached the code based on two factors. Firstly that its packaging suggests that young people need to drink to be sexy and secondly that it is deigned to appeal to a youth (and aspirational) market. These findings were made based on the sexual connotation of the brand name and the bright colouring and boldness of the packaging design.

Bottles of Wet Pussy were created and the brand trademarked last year by Melbourne based Danny Grant, George Grigoriadis and Jess Conti. The bottled product is based on the shot of the same name and which has been sold in clubs right around the world for the past decade.

The beverage company failed to respond to ABAC’s final determination and the complaint has now been referred to the Victorian liquor licensing authority for further investigation.

In July last year the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) – named the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation at the time – signed an agreement with ABAC to ensure greater collaboration between the organisations in the pursuit of alcohol advertising best practice.

The agreement includes the referral of complaints made to ABAC onto VGCCC – as is the case here – and regular contact between the two organisations to discuss issues and challenges in the alcohol marketing regulatory scheme.

Under section 115A of the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998, the “Commission has to give a notice to a licensee banning the advertising or promotion of the supply of liquor if, in the opinion of the Commission, that advertising or promotion is likely to encourage irresponsible consumption of alcohol or is otherwise not in the public interest. When considering whether advertising or promotion of liquor breaches section 115A, the Commission has regard to its guidelines for responsible liquor advertising that can be found here.

The Commission declined to comment on the referral from ABAC as it is an ongoing matter.

With digital marketing continuing to rise in 2021, ABAC recorded peak levels of activity for both its pre-vetting service and complaints activity. Digital marketing was again the largest source of complaints considered by ABAC’s panel.

ABAC has welcomed the uptake of its pre-vetting service which grew by 38 per cent last calendar year.

ABAC Chair Harry Jenkins AO noted “Pre-vetting is the easiest and most efficient way for marketers to ensure their promotions and packaging are responsible before hitting the marketplace. Pre-vetting may be undertaken by both signatories and non-signatories and we encourage all alcohol producers, distributors and retailers to utilise this valuable service.”

Four hundred and fifty alcohol marketing, agency and media staff have now completed ABAC’s free online training course launched in March 2020.

Mr Jenkins said, “It is important that agencies and staff developing social campaigns for alcohol marketers understand and work within the ABAC standards, in particular ensuring that available age restriction controls are applied to all alcohol marketing, which is an area that will be monitored in 2022.”

The Commission confirms it has received the referral from ABAC and its investigation into this matter is ongoing. It would therefore not be appropriate to comment any further at this stage. 

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