Summary of Council decision:
Three issues were investigated, all of which were Upheld.
Three Facebook posts by pubs in the Blackrose Group:
a. A post for The Prior, seen on 17 September 2019, showed an image of two bottles of Prosecco. Text below stated “Do you suffer from Shyness? Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive? Ask your bartender about our Fizz Friday Prosecco offer! Enjoy our favourite bottle of Fizz for just £10 Every Friday!”.
b. A post for Ship and Royal, seen on 2 October 2019, stated “Hats off to everyone doing the going sober for October…..me I’m going on a bender till December” followed by [beer glass], [sunglasses] and [teary-laugh] emojis.
c. A post for The Britannia Inn, seen on 2 October 2019, stated “If at first you don’t succeed, try drinking a bottle of prosecco, you’ll be surprised at how much less you’ll care” followed by [sparkling wine glasses] and [sparkling wine bottle] emojis. An image underneath showed a bottle of prosecco being poured into a glass, with superimposed text “Fizz Fridays” over the image.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. ad (a) breached the Code by implying that alcohol could enhance confidence;
2. ads (b) and (c) breached the Code because they encouraged excessive drinking, and
3. ad (c) breached the Codes by implying that alcohol was capable of changing mood.
Blackrose Ltd did not provide a substantive response to the ASA’s enquiries.
The ASA was concerned by Blackrose Ltd’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to provide a substantive response to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.
The CAP Code required that marketing communications must not claim or imply that alcohol could enhance confidence or popularity. The ASA considered that the rhetorical questions “Do you suffer from shyness?” and “Do you sometimes wish you were more assertive?”, plus the response “Ask your bartender about our Fizz Friday Prosecco offer!”, strongly suggested that shyness would be replaced by assertiveness, and confidence would be increased if someone took up the offer and consumed that alcoholic drink.
Because the ad implied that alcohol could enhance a person’s confidence by enabling them to overcome shyness and become more assertive, we concluded that it was in breach of the Code. On that point, ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.2 (Alcohol).
2. & 3. Upheld
The CAP Code required marketing communications to be socially responsible and contain nothing likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that were unwise, including encouraging excessive drinking. The CAP Code also stated that marketing communications must not imply that alcohol had therapeutic qualities. Alcohol must not be portrayed as capable of changing mood, physical condition or behaviour or as a source of nourishment. Marketing communications must not imply that alcohol could enhance mental or physical capabilities.
Although we acknowledged that “going on a bender till December” in ad (b) was intended to be a comical play on words referencing the charity event ‘Go sober for October', we considered it nonetheless encouraged excessive drinking by presenting binge-drinking alcohol in a positive light. We considered that the statement in ad (c) “If at first you don’t succeed, try drinking a bottle of prosecco, you’ll be surprised at how much less you’ll care” was also intended as a comical reference to a well-known proverb. However, we considered that it also implied an individual could drink an entire bottle of prosecco, in order to forget about their problems and improve their mood, and therefore portrayed alcohol as having therapeutic qualities.
We therefore concluded that ads (b) and (c) breached the Code by encouraging excessive drinking and ad (c) breached the Code implying that alcohol was capable of changing mood and had therapeutic qualities. On those points, ads (b) and (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.1 (Alcohol) and ad (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.7.
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Blackrose Ltd to ensure in future that their ads did not encourage excessive drinking and did not imply that alcohol had therapeutic qualities and was capable of changing someone’s mood. We referred the matter to the CAP Compliance team.