The whisky brand’s Facebook page contained various status updates and photos on which the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) can adjudicate under its extended remit, which from 2011 has included non-paid for online marketing communications.
These included: a picture of a woman pouring alcohol from two bottles next to the text “how many bottles would you need to last the night?”; a picture of a man face down on a bed; a status update asking its fans to share their “Fireball stories from the weekend”, which included responses such as “Had Fireball + Apple J + spewed in a bush. Freebie?”; a status update stating: “Dear Students – Exams and coursework getting you down? Like this status and tell us why we should send you some Fireball and freebies to keep you going!”; and a photo showing three young women drinking alcohol.
The Youth Alcohol Advertising Council challenged whether the ads were socially irresponsible because they promoted excessive drinking, suggested the product was capable of changing mood and enhancing mental capabilities and also breached the CAP Code because the people depicted appeared to be under 25.
Hi Spirits, which owns the Fireball brand, said asking the company to remove posts that had been uploaded by Facebook users would be “tantamount to censorship” and “against the fundamental right to freedom of speech”.
It added, in the case of the ad which asked for stories to be shared, did not suggest either implicitly or explicitly that an excessive amount of alcohol must be drunk. In spite of this it removed the posts in question ahead of the ASA Council’s decision.
The ASA said while the request for “Fireball stories” would not necessarily be associated with excessive drinking, the responses glorified the idea that people had consumed large amounts of alcohol and had become intoxicated and was therefore irresponsible.
It also said Fireball provided no evidence to prove the people featured in one of its photos were above the age of 25 and considered because many consumers would think they were under that age it was also in breach of the advertising code.
In the case of the “Dear Students” update, the ASA said the status suggested the product would have a positive effect on the recipients’ mental or physical ability and was in breach of the code.
The watchdog said the picture of the man face down on the bed “glorified” the idea the man had consumed a large amount of alcohol and “promoted excessive drinking”.
The ASA did not uphold two separate complaints from the Youth Alcohol Advertising council about a photo showing four teddy bears on the bed with the advertiser’s logo and a status update that read “Take a shot and ignite the nite”, concluding these were not in breach of the code.