Alcohol in Ads - What not to do

The alcohol rules, designed to prevent irresponsible alcohol promotion, apply irrespective of whether the product is shown or seen being consumed. Moreover, many of the rules apply even when alcohol is not the product being advertised (for example this ruling against an ad promoting a holiday service). That said, the stringent rules for alcohol ads are not intended to stifle creativity, in fact, it could be argued that the rules even help inspire more innovation in alcohol-based campaigns.

Breaches of these rules often attract a lot of negative publicity for advertisers and brands, so to help you stay compliant, here are some of the main ‘don’ts’ when it comes to the rules:


• show, imply or condone unwise or excessive drinking, link it with activities or locations where it would be unsafe or unwise to drink or show it being handled or served irresponsibly;

• suggest that alcohol has therapeutic qualities or can change moods, physical condition or behaviour, that it can enhance confidence, popularity, mental or physical capabilities or performance, or contribute to professional or sporting achievements;

• suggest that it’s indispensable or should take priority in life, or that it can overcome boredom, loneliness or other problems;

• link it to seduction, sexual activity or sexual success or suggest it can enhance attractiveness;

• suggest alcohol is the reason for the success of a personal relationship or social event;

• portray drinking as a challenge or link it with tough or daring people or behaviour;

• suggest the product is preferable because of its high alcoholic strength (there’s an exception for ‘low alcohol’ – 0.5% - 1.2% ABV);

• show those who are drinking behaving in an adolescent or juvenile way;

• feature people who are, or look like they are, under the age of 25 in a significant role;

direct ads at under-18s or have them appeal to them particularly - for example by reflecting youth culture or featuring people or characters of more appeal to under 18s;

• make any health, fitness or weight control claims – limited nutrition claims (‘low-alcohol’, ‘reduced alcohol’ and ‘reduced energy’) are permitted subject to the requirements in Section 15;

• forget that that rest of the CAP Code still applies, so the ad shouldn’t mislead or cause serious or widespread offence.

If you’d like some online training around the alcohol rules, check out our e-learning module (£75 (inc. VAT)) and for FREE pre-publication advice on non-broadcast ads the Copy Advice team is always happy to help.

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