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.
Rule 18.14 states “Marketing communications must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. They should not feature or portray real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under 18 in a way that might encourage the young to drink. People shown drinking or playing a significant role (see rule 18.16) should not be shown behaving in an adolescent or juvenile manner.” Marketers can read more about ‘particular appeal’ generally here.
Marketers should be wary of including animals (particularly cute or cuddly animals), cartoon characters, cartoon styling, or other real or CGI characters that could be considered of particular appeal to children. Whilst not all cartoon-like imagery or every reference to an animal is likely to be problematic in an alcohol ad, the subject is often nuanced and many ads will feature elements that will either tip it into problematic territory, or sway it towards an adult audience. Due to the subjective nature of this area, marketers wishing to use animals, cartoons or other characters in alcohol ads are urged to contact the Copy Advice team for guidance.
In 2014, the ASA investigated an ad for a frozen cocktail drink, which featured a cartoon parrot. The advertiser argued that they had deliberately designed the parrot character so that he did not talk, and had used a technical process to base the animal on a real-life parrot, meaning that he was realistic rather than ‘cartoony’. However, the ASA considered that the parrot was colourful and humorous and his behaviour was slapstick in fashion. The ASA therefore concluded that the ad would appeal to children (Diageo Great Britain Ltd t/a Parrot Bay, 15 October 2014).
However, in 2017, the ASA reached a different conclusion with ‘talking’ frogs in a beer advert. The Budweiser advert, meant to be reminiscent of their infamous 90’s advert, featured three frogs repeating the words “Bud”, “light” and “beer”. Because the frogs were realistic looking, not anthropomorphised and the overall tone of the ad was rather dark and gloomy, the ASA found that it was unlikely to appeal particularly to children (AB Inbev Ltd, 20 September 2017).
Conversely, in 2017, the ASA investigated a snapchat lens for Captain Morgan. The lens was accessed via an icon that featured a bright, colourful cartoon pirate, which the ASA considered would appeal particularly to children. Whilst the augmented reality lens itself was more realistically piratical in nature, because the icon would appeal and therefore attract children to an alcohol ad, the advertisers breached the Code (Diageo Great Britain, 3 January 2018). Our guidance on Age-Restricted Ads Online contains more information about how to target appropriately on social media - however, it's important to note that alcohol ads must not appeal particularly to children regardless of whether the ad is appropriately targeted