Proposed new rules on television commercials for alcohol take a “draconian” approach and threaten the commercial viability of advertising products, the executive director of Bacardi-Martini has warned.
Chris Searle, who is also vice-president of ISBA (Incorporated Society of British Advertisers), will speak at a Westminster forum on September 7 examining Ofcom’s plans to strengthen existing legislation on alcohol advertising.
The Westminster Diet & Health Forum event, which will be attended by Ofcom, politicians and senior industry figures, will be one of the last opportunities for the trade to get its views across before the consultation period ends on September 24.
Searle said there was concern the rules were ambiguous and would unfairly target certain brands, such as ready-to-drink products which are singled out by Ofcom for being potentially attractive to children.
“Most existing ads will have a problem with one element of the code or another,” he said. “If we look at everything they are suggesting, we are looking at some pretty draconian measures, particularly in terms of youth and sex appeal.”
The rules ban associating alcohol with flirting or social success and were in danger of taking a “kitchen sink” approach, said Searle.
The demand for alcohol to be portrayed as “mature adult
pleasure” and for ads to avoid using celebrities, music or sport with youth appeal meant there was a danger advertising would become meaningless, he added.
“If we can’t do flirtation or suggestiveness, it will be hard to show any kind of relationship with people and alcohol involved unless they are mature married couples,” he said.
Searle continued: “We need codes that are clear and we can comply with while still making advertising worthwhile. It is not just what the codes say now but how they will be interpreted in the future that is important to clarify.”
Richard Clark, marketing controller of Halewood International, which owns Red Square and Lambrini, said there were concerns alcohol ads would not be able to show people having fun, threatening the ‘Girls just wanna have fun’ strapline for Lambrini.
“We support all positive steps to reduce alcohol abuse and binge drinking. As to future legislation changes, I can only comment that they appear generalised and appear to have a wider scope than was first implied.”
Claire Hu