Alcohol marketing codes expanded

Alcohol brands will be banned from promoting drink as a way to relax under new rules agreed by the industry’s biggest producers.


The prohibition of marketing pushing the “therapeutic properties” of alcohol is one of a raft new rules added to industry body The Portman Group’s voluntary code of conduct governing the marketing of alcohol (see box below).

Other changes include allowing producers to promote the low alcohol strength of drinks in campaigns, previously barred and a ban on the use of models who are or look under 25 in ads in line with the Committee of Advertising Practise’s code.

The changes follow a two-and-a-half-year review of the group’s code, launched in March 2010 to meet the requirements of the Government’s responsibility deal with industry.

The Portman Group, which is funded by the UK’s nine biggest producers, vowed to revise the code, which was first introduced in 1996 and has 140 signatories, alongside a commitment to get 80 per cent of producers to carry information on unit content, daily consumption and a warning on drinking when pregnant by the end of 2013.

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group , says the changes, which follow a consultation and discussion with marketing bodies and NGOs, add up to the “intelligent evolution of a highly respected and effective code”.

He adds: “Our task is to set the right balance between legitimate marketing activity and public protection, especially of young people. Tough self-regulation is the most effective way to regulate alcohol marketing and this approach is supported by Government and the industry and recognised as the gold standard.”

The industry will be hoping the changes will go some way to placating alcohol charities and some MPs. The Health Select Committee of MPs called for a wholesale review of self-regulation in the industry, backed by Alcohol Concern in July.

Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern says of the code changes: “While it’s good to see alcohol promotion being taken seriously as an issue by the Portman Group, the only way to guarantee that young people are protected is through a full regulatory system. It’s simply too easy for advertisers to sidestep voluntary agreements.”

Sue Eustace, director of public affairs at the Advertising Association, however, backed the revision. “This updated code ensures consumers continue to get the highest level of protection by making the rules consistent across the board,” she adds.

Revision of the “Code of Practice on Naming Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks”.

  • The inclusion of codes covering joint promotions with retailers, public relations activity and any digital marketing which falls outside the ASA’s remit.
  • The prohibition of claims about alcohol having therapeutic properties, such as being an aid to relaxation.
  • A ban on using images of people who are, or look like they are, under 25 in ads.
  • A promise to introduce a sponsorship code which will require drink brands to promote responsible drinking in activation activity by spring 2013.


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