Two Instagram posts on Holly Ah-Thion’s Instagram account, for Tequila Rose Distilling Co, an alcoholic liqueur company, seen on 4 May 2019:
a. The first ad featured an image of Holly Ah-Thion sitting on a sofa holding a shot glass filled with a pale pink liquid. A bottle of Tequila Rose Liqueur and another shot glass filled with a pale pink liquid were on a table in front of her. The image was accompanied by a caption, which stated “[#AD] Dressed for the occasion. One for me, one for you. Date night feat. @lovetequilarose. Tequila, but not as you know it…#TequilaRose Strawberry Cream, is pure creamy, strawberry, yumminess in a glass.”
b. The second ad featured an image of a bottle of Tequila Rose Liqueur and two shot glasses filled with pale pink liquid on a table next to a vase filled with flowers.
1. The complainant challenged whether the ads, which featured alcoholic drinks, were inappropriately targeted at people under 18 years of age.
2. The ASA challenged whether ad (a) breached the Code because the model featured appeared to be under 25 years old.
1. & 2. Halewood International Ltd said that Holly Ah-Thion’s demographics indicated that 98% of her followers were aged 18 and over. They said that Holly Ah-Thion’s profile described her as being a “millennial, cat, and coffee enthusiast”, and her posts related to fashion, brunch, jewellery, and city living, and that none of those things would have appealed to those under the age of 18. They said in their opinion Holly Ah-Thion did not appear to be under 25 and that they were unaware she was under 25 when approached by the agency. They provided evidence showing that she was 25 at the time ad (a) was published and screenshots of posts made by her in the run-up to her 25th birthday.
Holly Ah-Thion provided a copy of her Instagram Analytics breakdown that showed 2% of her followers were in the 13 to 17 age bracket. She said that the sentence “Tequila, but not as you know it” in the caption implied that readers were likely to have consumed tequila before. She provided evidence showing that she was under 24 when approached about the promotion, but over 25 when the Instagram posts were made. She said the post was supposed to depict a ‘date night’ which she believed was an adult theme.
Additionally, she provided posts made in the run-up to her 25th birthday and said that on the basis of those posts her followers would have known that she was 25 when ad (a) was published.
1. Not upheld
The CAP Code required that ads for alcoholic drinks or ads that featured or referred to alcoholic drinks were not directed at people under 18 years of age through the selection of media or the context in which they appeared. It further required that no medium should be used to advertise alcoholic drinks if more than 25% of its audience was under 18.
The ASA first considered the context in which the ads appeared. The content on Holly Ah-Thion’s Instagram account consisted primarily of photos and posts about lifestyle, travel and shopping. We considered that, in general the content did not focus on themes likely to be of particular appeal to under 18s and did not feature under 18s. We considered that consumers were unlikely to use Instagram or interact with the Instagram pages of individuals or businesses unless they were signed in to their Instagram account. As non-paid for posts, the Instagram posts from Holly Ah-Thion in ads (a) and (b) would have only been seen by her followers and in the feeds of any followers who had ‘re-grammed’ the posts. We understood that because they were non-paid for posts, neither Holly Ah-Thion nor Halewood would have been able to utilise the age restrictions or interest based targeting available on Instagram for paid-for ads. We noted that significantly less than 25% of Holly Ah-Thion’s followers worldwide were registered as under 18. We understood from the audience figures provided by both Halewood and Holly Ah-Thion that less than 25% of Holly Ah-Thion's audience were under the age of 18. Taking into account both the nature of the Instagram account and the demographic data available, we concluded that the ad had been appropriately targeted and did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ads under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.15 (Alcohol), but did not find them in breach.
The CAP Code stated that people shown drinking alcohol or playing a significant role in a marketing communication must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25 years of age. We noted that Holly Ah-Thion was 24 at the time she was approached by Halewood to make the post in ad (a). Although we acknowledged that Holly Ah-Thion was 25 years of age at the time ad (a) was published, and that some followers were likely to have known that she was in fact 25 years of age at the time based on the posts made in the run-up to her birthday, we nonetheless considered that she would be considered to be under the age of 25 by some consumers since those who were familiar with her age around the time of the ad, but who had not seen those posts might think she appeared to be 24, and others who were not familiar with her age were likely to assume she was under 25.
We considered that because she was the focus of the image, she played a significant role in the ad and therefore concluded the ad was in breach of the Code.
Ad (a) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.16 (Alcohol).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Halewood International Ltd to ensure that those playing a significant role in their future advertising must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25 years of age.