Saturday, 7 May 2011

Regulations on Alcohol Advertising

The beer industry is really clever. Just look at their ads and see how they cater specifically to different groups. For example, wander into any open-air food court in Singapore and chances are good that the pillars will be plastered with advertisements featuring cheongsam clad pouty ladies. At night, groups of middle aged men will be seen converging at tables and flirting with the "Beer Aunties", cheerful, busty women who will regularly top up their drinks.

Wander into a sports pub and the image subtly changes. Football matches are heavily sponsored by beer companies. The players wear shirts emblazoned with beer logos. And what could be a better match for spicy chicken wings than a cool draught? Now the advertisements emphasise friendly competition and bonding, targeting the younger crowd that frequent these places.

I am reminded of the early days of smoking advertisements, where it was permissible to market cigarettes as making one "cool" (anyone remember the Marlborough Man?). Although the moderate consumption of alcohol does not pose a significant health risk, alcohol is still lumped into the "sin" category, attracting more regulation and taxes. My Diploma assignment this past week was to research alcohol advertisements, and there are suprisingly quite a few guidelines on what can and cannot be shown. For example, in the European Union, the following rules apply:
  • it cannot be aimed specifically at minors, or in particular depicting minors consuming these beverages.
  • it shall not link the consumption of alcohol to enhanced physical performance or driving.
  • it shall not create the impression that the consumption of alcohol contributes towards social or sexual success.
  • it shall not claim that alcohol has therapeutic qualities.
  • it shall not encourage immoderate consumption of alcohol.
  • it shall not place emphasis on high alcoholic content as being a positive quality of the beverages.

With the exception of the first rule, alcohol advertising does sometime walk a fine line. Tiger Beer caught some flak in 2008 for a UK ad featuring a ladyboy cabaret performer next to a bottle of Tiger Beer and the tagline "The Far East’s Most Desirable Export Since 1932". People linked the ad as saying that beer and sex were two of Asia's best exports, and the Advertising Standards Authority forced Tiger Beer to pull the ad.

Even worse is when someone else makes use of your brand to make an ad. The Guinness Good Times video created a buzz when it came out on Youtube, but it wasn't even an official ad. Diageo (the owner of Guinness) said that "Guinness is in no way associated with this video, and has approached YouTube to have it removed. We are proud of our brands, and our commitment to responsible marketing, and this is not how we want our brand portrayed."

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