Right, well, that’s another year over with. The decorations have been packed away, we’ve all eaten as many festive treats as we could fit in, and we’ll hit the gym tomorrow, we promise. The New Year often kindles a health kick in many of us, with Dry January (that is, giving up alcohol for the month of January) becoming somewhat of a staple in the last few years – and this year it'll be easier than ever to stick to with the rise of low/no alcohol alternatives. But did you know that there are new rules on the horizon for this type of product? Read on to see how the low/no alcohol scene is changing in 2024.
But before that, here’s a quick recap on Dry January – and what NOT to say if you’re a seller of alcohol products (that is, above 0.5% ABV). Firstly, don’t suggest in your ads that Dry January is boring, and people are better off getting drunk than trying to take part. Secondly, don’t imply or state that sobriety is too hard, and consuming alcohol is easy. Lastly, remember that even if your product is low in calories, low in ABV, or anything else that might appeal to the “health conscious”, there are lots of restrictions about what you can and can’t say about your product.
In 2022, the ASA upheld an email ad for a 4% hard seltzer drink, which stated “Forget Dry January … Is dry January becoming a little dry? There’s no reason you can’t enjoy a drink without setting you back! Our drinks only have 57 calories, 0g Sugar and are 4% ABV and are the perfect choice for a tipple without all the guilt”. Despite the advertiser stating the headline “is dry January becoming a little dry?” was a play on words, the ASA considered that the overall impression of the ad was that people were invited to drink alcohol to overcome the boredom or tedium of Dry January, as well as making prohibited nutrition claims for an alcoholic drink.
So, on to alcohol alternatives and Section 18. Later this year, CAP are introducing new rules for alcohol alternatives, which means they will be subject to Section 18.
As a bit of background, when the alcohol rules were first created, there wasn’t much of a market for low or no alcoholic beverages. Until the last few decades, British society has been au fait with alcohol in general, and as such, most of the advertising rules were around trying to rein in irresponsible claims, such as rule 18.9, which states that products with a relatively high ABV must not place undue emphasis on the ABV. Of course, things have changed drastically, even in the last few years, and low and no alcoholic products have blossomed in popularity.
So, what exactly are alcohol alternatives? Simply put, they are products intended to be direct replacements for alcohol that are 0.5% ABV or less – like no alcohol spirits, zero-alcohol beer etc.
Some of the new rules are likely to mirror the rules that already apply to alcoholic drinks – for example, ads should not appeal or be directed at under 18s and must not depict under 25s. However, there are some changes. Alcohol alternative products need a clear statement of the product’s ABV, and they can be shown in circumstances where a normal alcoholic drink would be unsafe, such as driving, as long as it’s clear the ad is for a zero-alcohol product. In addition, ads should not present alcohol alternatives as a way to increase alcohol consumption beyond responsible levels.
If an alcohol alternative shares a brand name with an alcohol brand, it should be clear that the ad is for the alcohol alternative product. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that where the ad has the effect of promoting an alcoholic drink, Section 18 will apply in full.
Here, we’ve highlighted just a few of the changes that are coming, but if you’re in the industry (or just interested!), it’s worth having a read of our Advertising Guidance for Alcohol Alternatives and our Regulatory Statement so you’re up to speed. The new rules will come into effect on 14 May 2024 and will sit within Section 18 – rules 18.18 – 18.24.
As always, the CAP Copy Advice team will be here to provide advice to any advertisers looking for a steer on their alcohol alternative ads, Dry January ads, alcohol ads or… just about any other type of non-broadcast ad.
Cheers to 2024!
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