ABAC’s 2018 Annual Report has revealed complaints about alcohol ads were higher this year than over the past four years, with two ads attracting particular ire.
Although as a percentage of overall complaints about all products and services, levels of alcohol complaints were consistent with previous years at 2.3%
The most complained about alcohol ad in 2018 was for Rusty Yak Ginger Ale.
Thirteen complaints were made, but were outside ABAC’s jurisdiction as the concerns were unrelated to alcohol as a product but rather were concerned with discrimination against a sector of the community.
Ad Standards upheld complaints on the basis that the advertisement vilifies people with red hair by the phrase ‘stop the spread of the gene’.
The Carlton & United advertising campaign included television and internet promotions for rare ‘Yak Ale’ products that had been packaged in a ginger wrapper. Viewers were urged viewers to “stop the gene spreading” by finding the rare “ginger” bottle designs “hiding” within six packs of beer, with the chance to trade them for $500 cash prizes.
“The majority of the panel considered the suggestion that the genetic trait needed to be stopped was a negative one, and considered that the most reasonable interpretation of this line was that having red hair was undesirable,” the panel said.
“The majority of the panel considered that the inclusion of this line in the advertisement was vilifying of people with red hair as it was likely to incite ridicule of people with red hair.”
CUB said it disagreed with the finding but pulled the advertisements from circulation.
Iron Jack faced three panel decisions
The second most complained about marketing campaign, with five complaints received in 2018, was the Iron Jack series of advertisements with the tagline “Iron Jack, Thirst Crushing Refreshment”.
This marketing campaign resulted in three separate panel decisions about two separate advertisements and in each case dismissed the complaint finding.
ABAC found no positive assertion that the product would provide a benefit to health or wellbeing was made.
Also, the reference to “thirst crushing” was used with the term ‘refreshment’ and would likely be taken to be going to the taste of the product. Taken as a whole, a reasonable person would not understand the ad is making claims about the health benefits of the product.
Plus, a scene showing alcohol use was clearly placed at the conclusion of the day after fishing had been completed; and there was no suggestion that the men had consumed alcohol before or during their use of the boat.
Bizarre complaints that didn’t make the cut
Among some of the more obscure reasons for complaining about alcohol ads that were not referred to the ABAC panel included imagery of a samurai sword offensive to POW survivors, dislike of alcohol ads with Christmas themes being shown after Christmas and dislike of ads being deliberately louder.
ABAC’s Pre-vetting Service (AAPS) was shown to be effective, with no content breaches over the past two years involved marketing or packaging that had been pre-vetted.
ABAC received a record 1751 pre-vetting requests in 2018. AAPS is mandatory for alcohol ads placed in outdoor, television, cinema and radio media, but optional for alcohol ads in other media.