Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

In October 2005, CAP brought in new, stricter, rules about the marketing of alcoholic drinks. The changes were a result of widespread concern about drinking behaviour such as excessive or binge drinking and anti-social behaviour, especially among the young. Marketers of alcoholic drinks were always expected to steer clear of implying that drinkers should party all night, binge drink, or get rowdy and drunk (Lynnet Leisure Group, 21 August 2002) but in 2005 the rules were toughened up. The changes tightened several restrictions, notably those on the use of seduction or sexual success and particular appeal to those under 18 years of age. The rules now state explicitly that they apply irrespective of whether the product is shown or seen being consumed.

In short, advertisers must ensure:

  • people are not encouraged to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise, for example, immoderate consumption, drinking over a prolonged period or rapid intake over a short space of time;
  • ads do not suggest that drinking can overcome problems;
  • models both are and look 25 years old or more;
  • people shown drinking are not behaving in an adolescent or juvenile way;
  • alcohol ads do not reflect the culture of people under 18;
  • ads are not directed at under-18s in any way; which includes, for example, context and content;
  • ads do not suggest that alcohol has therapeutic qualities or can change moods or enhance confidence, mental or physical capabilities or performance, popularity or sporting achievements;
  • ads do not show alcohol being handled or served irresponsibly;
  • links are not be made between alcohol and seduction, sexual activity or sexual success;
  • ads do not suggest alcohol is the reason for the success of a personal relationship or social event;
  • drinking alcohol is not portrayed as a challenge or linked with tough or daring behaviour.

As with all subjective decisions, it is sometimes difficult to pre-judge whether the ASA will rule against certain executions. Given the socio-political climate in which alcohol marketers now operate, the Copy Advice team tends to take a cautious approach when giving advice on alcohol ads. It sometimes seeks guidance from one of the industry steering groups, the General Media Panel (GMP), and that prudence is endorsed by the Panel.

The drinks industry has a Code that applies to the naming and packaging of alcohol products and promotional activity. Marketers may refer to the Portman Group’s Code, on

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