If your campaign even hints at encouraging excessive alcohol consumption, you will find yourself in trouble. Duncan Reed explains
We want to run a drinks promotion, but I heard the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently banned a bottomless Prosecco ad campaign run by Prezzo. Where does the ASA draw the line on what's acceptable?
The promotion entitled customers to unlimited glasses of Prosecco for two hours if they paid £15 a head and ordered a main meal. The terms made it clear that the Prosecco would be topped up by waiting staff at their discretion and that Prezzo reserved the right to refuse service to anyone who appeared intoxicated.
The ASA banned the campaign on the grounds that expressions used in the ad such as "bottomless" and "free flowing" were likely to encourage excessive drinking. This impression was emphasised by an image that portrayed Prosecco cascading into several glasses.
The authority took the view that the advert encouraged people to drink to excess, despite the terms of the promotion, which sought to limit the amount of alcohol consumed.
The ASA ruling serves as a reminder of the dangers when it comes to alcohol advertising. It shows that the wording of an ad strapline and associated images can undo an otherwise responsible promotion if it hints at excessive alcohol consumption.
Hotels and restaurants should take extra care when planning any advertising or promotion that relates to alcohol, particularly anything suggesting an all-you- can-drink offering.
To ensure your promotion complies with the Committees of Advertising Practice's (CAP ) advertising codes, consider:
• Advertising copy: expressions such as "bottomless" and "free flowing" make for good copy, but when used to advertise alcohol, they are likely to cause problems with the ASA.
• Use of images: pictures should be selected carefully to create the impression of responsible drinking. A balance of food and drink is generally recommended in images accompanying alcohol promotions.
• Terms and conditions: the ASA will look at the ad as a whole to consider the overall impression it is likely to have on the consumer. The terms and conditions may well be undermined by the more eye-catching elements of the campaign.
• Take extra care when planning any advertising campaigns relating to alcohol.
• Beware of ads that hint at excessive alcohol consumption, especially those that suggest an all-you-can-drink promotion.
• Pay close attention to wording and images, as these can be very suggestive and may override the intentions behind the campaign.
• Ensure that all ad campaigns are assessed in light of UK advertising standards, guidance and the decisions of the ASA.
Every hotel and restaurant is bound by the CAP codes, and any business that falls foul of them can face a number of sanctions. The ASA will typically order the business to stop or change an ongoing advertising campaign - which can result in wasted investment for marketing campaigns that are intended to run over a long period of time. This includes wasted staff hours spent thinking up and promoting the campaign, as well as expensive agency and production costs.
The ASA can also require non-compliant businesses to go through the time-consuming process of having their future advertising material vetted for up to two years.
ASA rulings are also widely reported, bringing unwanted negative publicity. The worst culprits - and the most newsworthy stories - may reach the national, trade and local media, as well as social media and online.
It is important to note that the ASA has jurisdiction to investigate almost all types of advertising material, including print, broadcast, social media and online. Advertisers' own websites are also subject to the CAP codes.
Duncan Reed is a legal director at law firm TLT duncan.reed@TLTsolicitors.com