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Advertisers reminded to take care as ABAC reports latest quarterly breaches

Australian alcohol marketing watchdog joins Ad Standards in reminding brands to be mindful of their responsibilities as they up COVID-19 content and embrace digital and social channels

Australia’s alcohol marketing watchdog has joined Ad Standards in reminding brands to be mindful of content aligning to responsible advertising practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its latest quarterly report, the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) cited double the amount of activity in the 3 months to 30 June 2020, reporting 60 new complaints and 26 determinations in the height of the COVID-19 crisis.

There were 13 breaches noted and upheld, along with one instance of a brand, Magnum + Queens, failing to activate age restrictions on its Facebook/Instagram advertising. In total, 14 determinations related to marketing referencing the global pandemic and its impact on businesses and the community, eight of which breached standards in some way.

Many of the breaches and determinations cited related to Instagram and/or Facebook posts by Fireball Whisky; Shifty Lizard Instagram posts; Boston Brewing Peach Lemonade; Vinomofo; Unico Zelo; Elbourne Wines; Thirsty Camel WA; and Milton Wines.

Other brands listed were found to have breached standards through a wider array of ad channels and content across emails, packaging, websites and billboards. That list includes Impression Gin; Latitude 34 Wine Company; and Grill’d.

ABAC noted that as the crisis and lockdown struck, more brands turned to digital advertising and channels as well as home delivery to sustain sales. This also resulted in hefty references to the pandemic in messaging during the quarter.

But the watchdog cautioned brands to be cognisant of their responsibilities to not promote alcohol as a necessary aid to relaxation, or implying alcohol as a prop to get people through the stresses of coping with the pandemic.

“It is acceptable to reference the pandemic in marketing, like it’s acceptable to reference other significant background events,” the organisation stated. “Current business conditions have seen some industry participants using marketing channels which they have may not have used extensively in normal conditions. It is however, important that good standards of marketing are maintained.”

ABAC highlighted recent cautions by the Ad Standards bureau to all advertisers to ensure content in all advertising aligns to current community standards and health guidelines.

It also noted lower pre-vetting levels this quarter as marketers looked to pare costs back to respond to rapidly changing COVID-19 conditions and encouraged marketers to continue to use its pre-vetting services.

In its recent half-year report, Ad Standards reported 1747 complaints during the first half to 30 June 2020, with 206 advertisements assessed against one or more issues cited under its code. As a result, 14 were withdrawn from broadcast.

The most complained about advertisement was Ultra tune’s ‘Baywatch’ themed ad on free-to-air TV, featuring Pamela Anderson and Warwick Capper, which reflected what Ad Standards described as heightened community concern about vilification or discrimination of people in advertising.

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