EUCAM - European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing

Health Committee recommends statutory regulation of alcohol promotion

11 January 2010

Health Committee recommends statutory regulation of alcohol promotion Source: Marketingweek
8 January 2010

The alcohol and advertising industries have been warned of an overhaul to the advertising regulations - with the possibility of a complete ban on advertising alcohol on TV.

(Eucam comment: Find Diageo's reaction on this report below this first article.)

In a report published today, 8 January, the cross-party Health Committee calls for the introduction of minimum pricing per unit of alcohol - a move which industry says would “encourage producers to intensify their marketing”. Any move to implement a minimum price must come hand in hand with tighter regulation on the marketing of alcoholic drinks, the Committee concluded.

The reports suggests that the current system of controls on alcoholic promotion and advertising is “failing to protect the young people it is intended to protect”, with “quantity rather than the content” the real issue.

One of the Committee’s principal recommendations is for the regulation of alcohol promotion to be “completely independent of the alcohol and advertising industries”. This could bring the role of the ASA - the Advertising Standards Authority - and The Portman Group under scrutiny.
Experts interviewed for the report provided evidence and experience that suggest self-regulation implemented by advertising, media and alcohol producers “does not prevent the types and content of marketing that impact on younger people”.

Recommendations therefore include cinema advertising being restricted to films classified as 18, plus a ban on advertising or sponsorship of events if more than 10% of the audience are under 18 years of age.

The expansion of non-broadcast advertising through social networking sites and viral marketing was identified as a particular issue. Age controls on websites, for example, are viewed as “inadequate”.

Asked to review the current system, Professor Gerard Hastings, director of the Institute for Social Marketing, concluded that there were “major shortcomings” in the current self-regulatory codes covering alcohol advertising, which do not even attempt to address sponsorship. The result is a regulatory system that “is impossible to police and vulnerable to exploitation”, he says.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Labour MP and Health Committee member, Stephen Hesford, says that while this report didn’t expose the advertising and alcohol industries as “a group of bastards” - as was the case with tobacco - he believes that “we’ll be back here in five years’ time and there will be statutory regulation”.

This could even go as far as countries like France where all alcohol advertising on television and billboard has been banned. Currently, the Committee’s recommendation is for a nine o’clock threshold for television advertising.

Rae Burdon, chief operating officer of the Advertising Association says the “severe” recommendations of the Committee will be “damaging and ineffective”.

“We believe the system of advertising regulation is robust. “These severe restrictions will not deliver the health benefits or the protection of young people the Committee seeks: their only effect will be severely to damage media, brand-owner businesses and sporting events.”

Click here for the full report of the health committee.
Click here for a summary of the report.

Diageo chief and ASA slam alcohol misuse proposals
8 January 2010

Diageo has hit back at the proposals in today’s Health Select Committee report that posits greater restrictions on alcohol pricing and promotion
Simon Litherland, managing director of Diageo GB, owner of brands such as Smirnoff and Guinness, says: “We recognise that alcohol misuse is a matter of serious concern for us all, but we are extremely disappointed by the committee’s divisive approach. This report represents yet another attempt by aggressive sections of the health lobby to hijack alcohol policy-making. It seeks to marginalise the role of industry in helping to tackle the problem of alcohol misuse.

He adds that many of the population wide measures proposed by the Committee today (8 January) would punish responsible drinkers but do nothing to address the minority of problem drinkers.
“Over a third of alcohol is consumed by less than a tenth of the population, which clearly suggests that targeted interventions would be much more effective and appropriate.”

He says that proposals for minimum pricing, at 50p per unit and duty increases are based on the false notion that higher prices will reduce excessive consumption amongst those groups most at risk but there is little evidence to support this and the Committee itself was divided on the efficacy of this approach.

Litherland is also disturbed by the “disproportionate focus” on spirits and points out that the Committee’s recommendations on duty, were they to be adopted, could potentially double the price of a bottle Bell’s, the UK’s favourite Scotch whisky, to around £23.

“The draconian proposals on alcohol advertising and sponsorship lack a credible evidence base. They amount to an effective ban, which would have serious repercussions for the sports concerned, the media and advertising industries.

“Fundamentally, we believe that the committee has missed an opportunity to identify policies that will really make a difference. They have recommended blunt top down legislative solutions, which overlook the proven effectiveness of a partnership approach across a wide range of stakeholders, including industry.”

The drinks industry is working alongside The Drinkaware Trust on a £100 million five-year Campaign for Smarter Drinking initiative , which aims to change the current drinking culture in the UK.
Other bodies supportive of self-regulation in the marketing and promotion of alcohol have spoken out. The Advertising Standards Authority, which regulates all non-broadcast advertising says: “As a regulator the ASA is independent of both Government and industry… the UK’s advertising regulatory regime for alcohol is one of the strictest in the world. The ASA regularly upholds complaints against major companies, demonstrating that the mandatory Codes are strictly applied.
“It is difficult to see what the benefits of a fragmented regulatory system might be - the regulatory system for advertising is already quick and effective in responding to public concerns and having problem ads withdrawn.”

Paul Sullivan, marketing director at brewery Wadworth, says: “Alcohol is a cultural issue and needs to be addressed as such over a period of time. The management of the few who drink to excess and are responsible for anti social behaviour will not be through reduction in music sponsorship or public health adverts or back label messages, but grass roots education and sensible implementation of the licensing laws already in place. Clearly alcohol is the new tobacco and today’s research will be yesterday’s hokum.

“Marketing needs to be sensible in the way it portrays alcohol especially if we want our drinkers to treat our product sensibly. If the reality is that brands are truly the domain of the consumer rather than the marketer which is my understanding then the solution to the alcohol issue is the re-education of the consumer from an early age. Over control will lead to increased desire by the parties that aren’t supposed to have it and small clubs, teams, festivals and communities that operate at the bottom end of the marketing spectrum will suffer.”

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