With Christmas fast approaching and the party season now in full swing, it is no surprise to see that alcohol is featuring prominently in advertising. Advertisers need to ensure that they comply with the provisions of the Codes (Section 18 of the CAP Code for non-broadcast and Section 19 of the BCAP Code for broadcast ads). It should also be noted that the rules apply to ads for alcoholic drinks but also those for other products and services which feature or refer to alcoholic drinks.

Many advertisers fall foul of the rules and have been accused of linking alcohol to sexual success or confidence or social acceptance. Alcohol Concern earlier this year raised a complaint about a TV ad for Estrella beer, for ostensibly linking alcohol, seduction and sexual success. However, on this occasion the ASA disagreed, and did not uphold the complaints in its adjudication.

Alcohol Concern considered the ad, which tells the story of the central male character’s island summer holiday, a breach of the BCAP Code for its apparent promotion of alcohol in the quest for friends and bedfellows. The main character unites with a couple of equally sun-kissed chums and spends his summer jumping off boats, beach-partying, flirting and enjoying the occasional Estrella beer on the dreamy Balearic island of Formentera. The complaint from Alcohol Concern was that the tone of the advert implied that alcohol contributed to the male character’s sexual success, social popularity and the overall success of the holiday. The soundtrack, "Summercat" by Billie the Vision and The Dancers, who feature in the ad, frequently includes the line "Tonight, I wanna be with you".

Clearcast’s view was that that alcohol was featured in a "realistic, incidental and minimal way" and that the interactions between the main male character and his female counterparts were ‘romantic’ rather than overtly suggestive or sexual. The ASA's adjudication followed Clearcast’s reasoning that the inclusion of alcohol was merely complementary to the spontaneous fun that the characters were seen to be enjoying, and reiterated that the Code did not prevent alcohol from being linked with ‘mild flirtation or romance’. It is rare for the ASA to disagree with Clearcast. All TV ads must be cleared by Clearcast, and it is worth noting that radio ads for, or featuring, alcohol must be cleared by the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC). Alcohol advertisers must also comply with the provisions of industry body The Portman Group’s Code of Practice for socially responsible marketing of alcohol products, available here.