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.
Marketers must avoid linking, explicitly or otherwise, alcohol and violence, as per rules 18.4 (alcohol and aggression), and potentially rule 18.7 (showing or implying alcohol as being capable of changing mood/behaviour). As well as breaking the Alcohol rules, it is likely that such marketing communications also break the more general Code rules, such as 1.3 and 4.4.
In recent times, there have been very few rulings in this area, as most marketers are aware of the potential pitfalls of linking alcohol with violence, both in terms of the Code and in terms of their brand image. Historically, however, the ASA received a complaint about posters that showed a man’s naked shoulder and upper back. On his shoulder were what seemed to be four red scratches that formed the shape of a square. The ASA considered that most people would infer that the scratches were a result of violence and that it was irresponsible to link an alcoholic product with violence (Halewood International Ltd, 22 May 2002).
In the past, the ASA has upheld complaints against the portrayal of firearms in alcohol advertising. In general, CAP recommends that marketers who depict weapons should do so only if the approach is relevant both for the product being advertised and the intended audience - this seems unlikely for alcohol brands. The ASA investigated and upheld complaints about ads for Ruddles bitter depicting a doubled-barrelled shotgun with the slogans “Excuse me, I believe that’s my seat” and “May I suggest you get the Ruddles in?” on the grounds that that the gun, pointing at the reader, could be seen as threatening and likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Although this particular complaint was not investigated under the Alcohol Rules, marketers of alcoholic drinks should take special care.