Hi Spirits’s Antica Sambuca brand has been rapped by advertising watchdogs for publishing  Facebook pictured that appeared to condone excessive drinking.

Following a single complaint, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) banned Hi Spirits from using the pics, which featured people in a bar holding multiple drinks and two of a man holding several drinks and car keys. The ASA said many of the poses and behaviour of people in the images suggested they were intoxicated, which is deemed irresponsible.

Hi Spirits said the photos had been taken and uploaded by a third party during a promotion night at a club, and although Antica Sambuca branding was visible in the images, claimed they did not constitute advertising, sales promotion or a marketing communication.

But the ASA ruled that non-paid for online space came under the remit of The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code because it was under the editorial control of the company and existed to promote the brand.

Hi Spirit said it had taken the complaint very seriously and had removed a number of the photos. It said it did not intend to use any photographs that did not adhere to the relevant guidelines in future.  “The social media pages for our brands are intended to create a sense of community for customers who enjoy our products responsibly,” said Hi-Spirits chairman Jeremy Hill. “We acted to remove some photographs as soon as the matter was raised with us by the ASA, and sought clarification on others, and acted on receiving that clarification. We have implemented new procedures to ensure that our brands’ social media complies with the ASA requirements.”