Tough new rules that ban linking sexual or social success with alcohol advertising have forced producers to tone down TV, radio and press ads, often at the risk of losing humour

It has been a pivotal year for alcohol advertising, with tough new rules on TV, radio and non-broadcast commercials.
Critics fear the revised code, which bans a link with sexual or social success and youth culture, will force suppliers to revert to dull executions which have no relevance to brand identity. Protagonists, meanwhile, say tighter guidelines are needed to help address the growing problem of binge drinking and brands appealing to under-age consumers.
There have been several test cases of the new Advertising Standards Authority rules, which may give the industry some hint of what’s to come.
Beverage Brands, whose WKD ready-to-drink brand has become synonymous with ads showing practical jokers winding up their mates, has been forced to pull proposed commercials with the same theme after consultations with advertising watchdogs. Marketing director Karen Salters says the main problem was that the ads portrayed a ‘victim’, which went against the spirit of the code.
“There is a real difference between harmful and harmless,” she counters. “I do think the rules are a bit extreme. However, I understand the rationale behind the guidelines and we all have to work
towards them. We are definitely going to lose humour. It’s a challenge to keep conveying brand values when the guidelines are becoming stricter.”
Salters also challenged inconsistent standards, which allowed saucy ads for toiletries brands such as Lynx but banned suggestions of flirtation or sexual success linked with drinks.
Beverage Brands is instead running three WKD TV ads for Christmas, showing two friends in a race in slow motion, which was judged to be competition among willing participants rather than a ganging-up against an individual.
Another drinks brand, Bacardi rum, is launching its first advertising campaign on TV today (October 15) since the tightening of the guidelines. Out are the famous ‘Latin Quarter’ executions showing a romance developing amid a party in full swing. Instead, commercials variously show people dancing in unusual styles and one called ‘Fun Before Fashion’ with the message: ‘If you’re confident and friendly, it doesn’t matter what you wear’.
Chris Searle, executive director at Bacardi-Martini, has previously warned the rules might result in a no-fun, no-socialising and no-flirtation approach to alcohol advertising.
However, the company stressed the new campaign was a natural evolution in its relationship with consumers. Bacardi rum director of marketing Andrew Carter says: “The new regulations are tough, but we feel they are fair. All of our new advertising will comply with regulations.”