Alcohol trade body to enforce rules outside ASA’s remit

PR, blogs and any other content beyond the remit of the Advertising Standards Authority will now be regulated by industry body the Portman Group after it expanded its code of practice.

The Portman Group will now regulate alcohol marketing laws outside the ASA’s remit.

The clamp down on gaps between the remits of both regulatory bodies is part of changes to the industry body’s voluntary code of conduct governing the marketing of alcohol (see box).

Producers are now able to make the lower-strength of their of their drinks a dominate theme in advertising campaigns. This was prohibited in the past but the group is hoping the shift will spur the industry’s Responsibility Deal with the Government by introducing and promoting new lower-strength alcohol ranges.

Alcohol brands will also be required to promote responsible drinking as a key part of any sponsorship campaign. Brewers AB Inbev and Heineken already do this through their work around the FA Cup and Champions League respectively.

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group said the updates, some of which were first mooted in 2011 alongside the launch of the Responsibility Deal, aim to strike the “right balance between enabling innovative campaigns and NPD while also curbing “unacceptable” marketing.

He adds: “The industry works hard to operate an effective and practical approach to self-regulation which is supported by producers and retailers and I am encouraged that Government has recognised this in its alcohol strategy.

The Portman Group, which is funded by the UK’s nine biggest producers and has 140 signatories, is working with the Government to help shape its alcohol strategy. The strategy, due to be announced later this year, could lead to another revision of the laws.

It comes a week after UK regulators revealed they are to review whether tougher rules on alcohol brands advertising on TV are needed.

Revision of the ‘Code of Practice on Naming Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks’:

  • Ensure consistent and seamless self-regulation – the remit of the code has been expanded so that it covers all alcohol marketing not regulated by the ASA or Ofcom. This also extends to online marketing such as user-generated content not claimed by the publisher.
  • Clamp down on inappropriate marketing claims – brands can no longer make direct or indirect links with sexual activity or references to sexual success.
  • Protect under 18s – Images of people who are (or look like they are) under 25 can longer be featured in campaigns drinking or holding alcohol.
  • Promote low and lower alcohol alternatives – Brands can make the lower alcohol content of their drinks a more prominent part of marketing activity.
  • Introduce a UK-wide Sponsorship Code – Drinks makers will be required to promote responsible drinking as an integral part of any sponsorship activity.