Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
The Antica Sambuca UK Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AnticaSambucaUK/photos, showed a number of photos which appeared to have been taken in a bar or nightclub and featured young adults holding or consuming alcoholic drinks including shots of Antica Sambuca. In two of the photos a man was shown holding multiple drinks and car keys. In the bottom corner of each photograph was an emblem which stated "Pick 'n' Twist".
The complainant challenged whether:
1. the photographs promoted excessive drinking and were therefore irresponsible, because she noted that in some images individuals were shown to be holding up to three drinks; and
2. two of the photographs linked drinking and driving, and were therefore irresponsible, because she noted that they showed a man holding multiple drinks and car keys.
3. The ASA challenged whether the photos were in breach of the CAP Code, because they featured people drinking alcohol who appeared to be under 25 years of age.
Hi Spirits asserted that the photographs were not advertising, nor a sales promotion or a marketing communication to which the CAP Code applied. They stated that the photos had been uploaded to the photos section of the Antica Sambuca UK Facebook page so that they could be viewed by the individuals featured. They also said there were no clear references to Antica Sambuca in the images and that they had not added any Antica Sambuca branding to them. They acknowledged that the "Pick 'n' Twist" emblem did appear on several of the photographs, but they argued that it was not directly or indirectly related to Antica Sambuca.
Regardless of their belief that the images did not promote the product, and did not constitute advertising, Hi Spirits said they took the complaint very seriously and had removed a number of the photographs from Facebook, including those showing individuals holding multiple drinks and a man holding drinks and car keys, as a result. They stated that in future they did not intend to use the photographs, or any similar photographs which did not adhere to the relevant guidelines.
The ASA noted that the Code applied to marketing communications in non-paid for space online which was under an advertiser's control, and were directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods. We understood that Hi Spirits had editorial control of the Antica Sambuca Facebook page and had chosen to upload the images seen on the photos page. We also considered that the purpose of the Antica Sambuca Facebook page, including the uploaded images was to promote the brand and the product, and encourage consumers to purchase it. We noted that in a number of the images, bottles of Antica Sambuca were featured and similarly, that in several photos Antica Sambuca branding was clearly visible on shot glasses, specially designed bunting and other promotional materials. We therefore considered that the images were within our remit and should have been compliant with the Code.
We welcomed the fact that Hi Spirits said they had removed several images from their Facebook page but noted that a number of images featuring individuals we considered to be below the age of 25 remained.
The ASA understood that a number of the images uploaded to the Antica Sambuca Facebook photo page showed individuals in a bar/club, holding and consuming alcoholic drinks. We noted that in several of the images individuals were shown holding multiple drinks, including a mixture of shots and "long" cocktails, two shots or two bottles of beer. In addition, in a number of the images, bar staff were shown holding trays of shots and offering them to those present. We therefore considered that the images showed that an abundance of alcohol was available and had been consumed at the events. Similarly, we noted that the poses and behaviour shown in several of the images suggested that some of the individuals present had consumed a large quantity of alcohol and were intoxicated. We therefore concluded that the images promoted excessive drinking and were irresponsible.
On that point, the images breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 1.3 Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society. (Social responsibility) and 18.1 18.1 Marketing communications must be socially responsible and must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise. For example, they should not encourage excessive drinking. Care should be taken not to exploit the young, the immature or those who are mentally or socially vulnerable. (Alcohol).
We understood that two of the images uploaded to the Facebook photo page showed a man holding multiple alcoholic drinks and his car keys. In one photo, the man was holding a shot in one hand, poised to drink it, whilst holding two alcoholic drinks and car keys in the other. In the other photo, he was posing with three other people and held two alcoholic drinks and car keys. We considered that the images linked alcohol with driving and therefore concluded that they were irresponsible.
On that point, the images breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.
Marketing communications must not encourage consumers to drink and drive. Marketing communications must, where relevant, include a prominent warning on the dangers of drinking and driving and must not suggest that the effects of drinking alcohol can be masked.
(Harm and offence),
Marketing communications must be socially responsible and must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise. For example, they should not encourage excessive drinking. Care should be taken not to exploit the young, the immature or those who are mentally or socially vulnerable.
Marketing communications must not feature alcohol being handled or served irresponsibly.
Marketing communications must not link alcohol with activities or locations in which drinking would be unsafe or unwise.
Marketing communications must not link alcohol with the use of potentially dangerous machinery or driving. Marketing communications may feature sporting and other physical activities (subject to other rules in this section; for example, appeal to under-18s or link with daring or aggression) but must not imply that those activities have been undertaken after the consumption of alcohol. (Alcohol).
We understood that the CAP Code required that people shown drinking or playing a significant role in a marketing communication promoting alcoholic drinks must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25 years of age. We noted that Hi Spirits had not provided evidence to show that the individuals featured in the photos were above the age of 25, or provided any information to explain that they had procedures in place to ensure that only those above the age of 25 were featured in their marketing communications. We noted that several of the images had been taken at university "Fresher's week" events and understood that a number of the attendees would have been new university students and therefore around 18 years of age.
We noted that in a number of the images the individuals were shown holding or consuming alcoholic drinks. Similarly, we noted that in several of the images they were shown ordering or being offered alcoholic drinks. Although some of the images did not show the featured individuals drinking alcohol, we noted that Antica Sambuca bottles and branding often appeared in the images and it was clear that the photos had been taken at the same events where alcohol had been available and consumed. We therefore considered that overall the images portrayed the individuals having a good time, and that the presence of alcohol was a significant factor that enhanced their enjoyment of the evening. Because we considered that some of the individuals featured in the images would be considered to be under the age of 25 by many consumers, we concluded that the images breached the Code.
On that point, the images breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.16 18.16 People shown drinking or playing a significant role must neither be nor seem to be under 25. People under 25 may be shown in marketing communications, for example, in the context of family celebrations, but must be obviously not drinking. (Alcohol).
The images must no longer appear on the Antica Sambuca Facebook photo page. We told Hi Spirits to ensure that their advertising did not condone excessive or immoderate drinking, link drinking and driving, and that people shown drinking or playing a significant role in their ads were not, and did not seem to be, under the age of 25 years.