Ad placement issues highlighted by ABAC

The decline in packaging complaints noted in ABAC’s latest quarterly report has continued, but recent rulings have highlighted issues with the tagging of alcohol brands on social media.

A complaint, which concerned the placement of a Carlton Draft ad in a YouTube video aimed at people with depression, highlighted issues with placement in online content that relies on the correct tagging of content and practices of exclusion by the alcohol advertiser.

The ABAC adjudication panel for another complaint involving a brand of beer called 40/20 also offered important guidelines for liquor brands regarding tagged photos on social media.

Elsewhere, Funk Cider’s ‘Sex Machine Cider’ was found to violate ABAC rules which prohibit associating an alcoholic beverage with sexual success.

Draft of Carlton

An ad for Carlton Draft raises questions about social media ad placement.

The complaint concerned an advertisement for Carlton Draft during a YouTube video titled “How I Cured Years of Depression in Days”.

The “Ode to the Pub” A pre-verified ad was criticized by an anonymous complainant for being “designed to establish and exploit existing emotional relationships with alcohol”.

They said the placement in a video will be watched by people directly and indirectly affected by depression.

“The harm caused by the encouragement of alcoholism in a cohort of depressed viewers is significant and increases the pressure toward suicide, domestic violence, and other social ills,” they said.

“The advertiser may even have specified this cohort as a target for their alcohol advertising. This conduct is so harmful that it violates common law standards. I haven’t read your laws or codes but if it’s not already illegal, it absolutely must be.

“Please understand the importance of harm reduction in alcohol advertising. Why is it even still allowed.

ABAC states that alcohol should not encourage excessive or rapid drinking, show or encourage irresponsible or offensive behavior, or suggest that drinking alcohol provides therapeutic benefit.

Carlton & United Breweries responded by saying that “although alcohol is certainly consumed in pubs, the intent of this advertisement is to highlight the venues themselves as a space of community and togetherness”.

The brewer explained that it applies disqualifications to all CUB campaigns running on YouTube, which only applies them to content 18 and older, and actively excludes ads from appearing on content relating to mental health. However, he said these exclusions rely on the videos being properly tagged, and if so, the video may have been miscategorized.

An ABAC panel responded by saying the complaint raised an issue about how the code deals with alcohol advertising and vulnerable people.

Although ABAC contains express provisions that identify minors as an “at risk” group for alcohol-related harm, it does not specifically name other groups.

Despite this lack of a specific provision, he said, this does not mean that alcohol advertising can be targeted in an acceptable way at people with depression or other mental health conditions, and it is likely that any issues like this would fall under other areas of the code, eg. example that prohibit alcohol advertising from showing excessive consumption or as having therapeutic benefits.

The committee ruled that while it “has no doubt that the complainant’s concern is sincere”, CUB did everything in its power, in accordance with YouTube’s rules, to ensure that the advertisement was not disseminated during content intended for vulnerable or at-risk groups. He dismissed the complaint.

40/20 beer company

40/20 Beer Company, which has previously been the subject of complaints through the ABAC process, has received a new complaint about Instagram posts from a Rugby League police team in which the company was tagged.

The post shows a Country South Steelers PRLFC player in a swimming pool with a can of 40/20 beer on his arm, which was tagged and appeared on the beer company’s own Instagram account.

“This post demonstrates alcohol consumption during the high-risk behavior of swimming,” the complainant said.

Although ABAC does not apply to “in lieu of payment” sponsorships, it does state that marketing communications cannot show the consumption of alcohol during activities requiring a high degree of vigilance or physical coordination, such as controlling a motor vehicle, boat or machinery or swimming.

The company argued that it was not involved in the publication of the message and did not commission it, and upon receipt of the complaint, it broke away from the message.

The ABAC panel suggested that to be within the team’s jurisdiction, the social media post must be generated by or under the reasonable control of a liquor distributor.

The ability to control which tags the company was associated with meant that they controlled that particular social media post.

As a result, 40/20 Beer breached its standards. But the ABAC panel said there were no specific rules regarding the responsibilities of liquor companies and social media accounts.

“For example, it would be unreasonable to expect tagged posts that violate ABAC standards to be removed within a few hours or even a day or two of the post being posted (a “no-fault violation” might be appropriate in such cases),” he suggested.

“On the other hand, a business should keep a regular eye on its own social media accounts and inappropriate user-generated comments or tagged posts shouldn’t stick around for weeks on end.”

Cider Sex Machine

Cider Funk was criticized for packaging and outdoor marketing and on the Sex Machine Cider website in another ABAC complaint.

According to a well-behaved complainant with the code, the product name is “insane and irresponsible” and “clearly violates 3(c)(ii) with respect to the implication of contributing to sexual success”.

“It also appears to contravene 3(c)(i) in that it suggests that use of the product ‘may create or contribute to a significant change in mood or environment’; 3(b)( i), in terms of likely appeal to minors; and probably 3(b)(iv) in the context of placement of an advertising device in a location where young people are likely to be exposed to such promotion”, have they stated.

Sex Machine Cider has been part of Funk’s main line since 2016, the company said, and that doesn’t mean the consumer will experience significant sexual prowess after drinking cider.

The company said the name was a pun on how it made the cider “sexier” by aging it in French oak, “a process that gives apple cider a sweeter flavor profile with vanilla and deeper body” and is a reference to the content of the cider itself.

An ABAC panel responded that it was “unusual but not impossible” that there would be an infringement based on a product’s name alone.

In the case of Sex Machine Cider, the panel said that even accepting the company’s explanation that the name refers to its production process, this information “is not obvious” to a consumer.

“While most consumers are unlikely to seriously believe that an alcoholic cider, whatever its name, will lead to social or sexual success, it is hard not to interpret the name of the product as doing something else than to associate the product with active sexual connotations,” he ruled.

On whether the name associated the product with sexual prowess, the panel ruled that it violated the code.

However, other issues, related to the placement of the outdoor ad and its potential appeal to minors due to its bright color scheme, were dismissed.

Comments are closed.