Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated of which both were Upheld.
A blog entry titled "RASPBERRY HEAT WAVE" stated "Colour blocking is the hot clothing trend of 2011. Eveyone from Chezza to Nicole Scherzinger to Leona Lewis are getting their bright colour game on. As a very brightly coloured bunch, we're bang into it too! We've been seing [sic] loads of pink, which we LOVE - as it's totally an homage to our new Sourz Raspberry flavour ;) Pink is not just for girls either ... lads have been getting in on the trend too with raspberry skinny jeans, shirts, belts and ties. Don't believe us? Check out this lot, who were more than happy to strike a pose and show off their latest colours on Threadz". Images showed male and female models in various outfits, with each photo including glasses of brightly coloured pink (and in one case green) drink.
Alcohol Concern, on behalf of the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council (YAAC), challenged whether:
1. the models shown were under 25 years of age, because they believed some of them appeared to be under 18 years of age; and
2. the references to celebrities and the use of an emoticon 'winking smiley face' were likely to appeal to people under 18.
Maxxium UK Ltd said they consulted the Portman Group to ensure that they were compliant. They said they did not incorporate images of people who were, or looked as if they were, under 25 years of age. They said the campaign went live in July 2011 and the shoot was conducted in the preceding weeks on a variety of occasions and locations. They provided photographic ID for each of the models, including their dates of birth and their ages. They said the five models were aged 29, 27, 26, 25 and 25 at the time of the launch, but acknowledged that one of the models was just short of her 25th birthday at the time of the shoot, although she was 25 two weeks before the campaign went live. They added they were unaware of that at the time and it was down to a judgement call made by the agency involved, on the basis that the model would be over 25 when the campaign went live.
2. They said the Sourz blog was hosted on a website which could only be accessed once a date of birth was provided and which stopped anyone under the age of 18 from legally seeing any content on the website, including the blog. They considered that all the website content appealed to and was exclusively consumed by people of a legal drinking age and if anyone under the age of 18 attempted to access the site they were re-directed to drinkaware.co.uk in line with their commitment to responsible marketing of alcohol.
They said the celebrities referenced were all over the age of 25 at the time the campaign went live. They said emoticons were used by people of all ages, and by brands that appealed to every age and they were no longer the domain of the young. They said Google and Skype had emoticons built into their core functionality and emoticons had reached every aspect of digital communication. They referred to Yahoo Survey research, which found that respondents from the ages of 19 to 25 were the most avid emoticon users, with 68% in this age group using emoticons on a daily basis, but that it was not just the younger generation who embraced emoticons, with nearly half (48%) of respondents over the age of 50 using emoticons in their everyday communication.
The ASA consulted the Portman Group, who confirmed they had received one request from Maxxium's agency, Tangible, in relation to a photo which featured three of the same models used in the Sourz ad about which the complaint was received. However, the request was received in relation to a neck collar promotion for Sourz Raspberry and not the website or blog. They said that, although the models were the same, the images were not and they had not advised on the website ad, the text or the emoticon. They added that they had advised that sales promotions were subject to the CAP non-broadcast advertising Code and not to the Portman Group Code.
We noted that the Code required that marketing communications for alcoholic drinks should not show people who were, or appeared to be, under 25 years of age in a significant role. Although we noted that the models were all over 25 when the shoot was published, we nonetheless considered that some of the models in the fashion shot, namely the girl featured in the pink dress and turquoise cardigan and the girl in the hat, would be considered to be some years under the age of 25 by many consumers, and could be seen by some consumers as being under 18. Although the models were not featured drinking, we noted that the shoot appeared to have taken place in a bar and that Sourz drinks appeared in some of the images. We also understood that one theme of the shoot was "homage to our new Sourz Raspberry flavour".
Because we considered that two of the models, who featured prominently in the images, were likely to be seen by consumers as under 25, we concluded the ad breached the Code.
On that point, the ad 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. (Responsible advertising) and 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).
We noted that the blog used informal, colloquial language, including the use of a 'winking' emoticon, and considered that that tone and approach were youth-orientated and likely to appeal to young people. We also noted that one aspect of the fashion shoot was to promote brightly coloured, fun fashion, which the ad claimed was likely to be worn by celebrities like Cheryl Cole, Nicole Scherzinger and Leona Lewis, and we considered that the ad associated that fashion style with the alcoholic Sourz drink. We noted that the celebrities mentioned were pop singers, associated with the X-Factor, who were popular with under 18s. We also considered that the models looked very young, with some models appearing to be around 18 years old, and, in light of that, considered that the fashion shoot would appeal to young people, rather than an older readership.
Because of the colloquial language, young-looking models and the references to X-Factor celebrities in the ad, we considered that it would have particular appeal to young people and concluded, in an ad promoting an alcoholic drink, that that approach was irresponsible and in breach of the Code.
On that point, the ad 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. (Responsible advertising) and 18.14 18.14 Marketing communications must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. They should not feature or portray real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under 18 in a way that might encourage the young to drink. People shown drinking or playing a significant role (see 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. should not be shown behaving in an adolescent or juvenile manner. (Alcohol).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.