Alcohol Awareness week is just round the corner, and the theme this year is Alcohol and mental health. The aim is to get people thinking about how best to look after themselves and their family during a time of change and uncertainty. Mental health issues affect approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK, so in that context, let’s take a look at three key things marketers should bear in mind when featuring alcohol in ads.
Does it suggest alcohol can change your mood or provide a therapeutic effect?
Marketers should take care to ensure that their ads don’t suggest that alcohol can affect the way consumers behave, or improve their mood. In particular, marketers should avoid suggesting that those who are anxious or stressed can benefit from a drink.
While using a phrase like ‘chill with mates’ may be acceptable in an alcohol ad, straying further and suggesting that alcohol is able to help relax or improve mood is likely to be deemed irresponsible, as seen in this Drake & Morgan Ruling.
What about help with boredom or loneliness?
Feelings of loneliness have been heightened this year, as many have been affected by social restrictions and a lack of social activities. Marketers therefore should ensure ads do not suggest that alcohol can provide relief or a solution for those who are feeling isolated, or bored.
Alcohol does not need to feature heavily, or prominently in an ad for it to fall foul of the Rules. The context in which an ad appears will be taken into account, and merely linking alcohol with alleviating boredom is unlikely to be acceptable - as highlighted in this ASA Ruling on Captain Morgan.
Can alcohol make you more popular, or improve a social event?
While it is acceptable to show alcohol as part of a social situation, such as a party, marketers should take care to ensure ads do not unduly emphasise the role alcohol might play. Similarly marketers must take care to avoid suggesting that alcohol can improve social skills or standing.
It may be acceptable for ads to depict people in situations which demonstrate their popularity, but it is important they do not imply that alcohol contributed to those characteristics, as outlined in this ASA Ruling on HP Bulmer.