Range of VK RTDs

Alcohol supplier Global Brands has been rebuked for a social media image promoting irresponsible drinking and featuring people under 25.

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against the supplier’s Facebook ad for the VK brand, ruling it depicted “styles of drinking that were unwise”.

The post, dated 8 March 2017, featured a group of young adults in a nightclub. Several had their heads tilted back, drinking from bottles of VK. The caption read: ‘Here’s a #TipTuesday for ya… VK is always better with your squad,’ followed by two ‘stick-out tongue’ emoji.

Global Brands said students drank VK predominantly and, as such, its target audience was between 18 and 25 years old. The use of emoji was a reflection of how the adult audience interacted online. The image – supplied by student fans – was of an ID-controlled nightclub accessible only to over-18s, therefore Global Brands was confident it did not feature anyone under the legal drinking age. The company provided evidence its advertising on social media targeted over-18s only, and it argued the picture did not promote excessive drinking because the bottles were all over half full.

However, the ASA noted the people were drinking with their heads tilted far back – a position that could be associated with downing drinks. Some of the bottles appeared half full, but a person at the front seemed to have an empty bottle and others were drinking from full ones. This suggested the ‘squad’ was at different stages of downing drinks, said the ASA, which considered the overall impression “was likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that were unwise”.

The watchdog acknowledged the image was in an ID-controlled club but that did not guarantee people under 25 did not feature. VK had not provided evidence to demonstrate the age of the people, and the ASA believed several to be under 25. They were the focus of the image and played a significant role in the ad.

The Facebook post breached CAP Code rules 18.1, 18.10 and 18.16 on alcohol marketing and was not to appear again in its original form, the ASA ruled.

Global Brands accepted the decision and would remove the ad from all platforms, said a spokeswoman. “We will continue to ensure we adhere to, and work closely alongside, ASA codes.”