COMMENT: Drinks ad regulations draw closer
Following a series of ads that breached both good taste and the guidelines of the industry's marketing regulator, the government is considering regulating all alcohol advertising. The industry is naturally keen to avoid this, but current alcohol advertising attitudes will have to change radically to avoid a clampdown.
A relaxed attitude to self-censorship may be about to backfire on the UK's alcohol advertising industry, as the government prepares to clamp down on the contents of adverts.
It will be difficult for alcohol manufacturers to deny that the government has a case. Two recent adverts have shown a woman having an orgasm, another shows a woman pouring lager over herself for her boyfriend to lick off, and Bacardi's adverts with Vinnie Jones have been accused of associating alcohol with both sex and violence.
The problem lies in the overt linking of sex with alcohol consumption, expressly forbidden by law. Recently, advertising agencies have been pushing the limits of the law, using the loophole of creating very sexual adverts without an overt link to the product. However, while this may not be a technical infringement, it has alarmed consumers as well as groups such as Alcohol Concern.
Alcohol Concern has always been anxious about the link between teenage drinking and teenage sex - a link that has been proven in numerous studies.
The worry now is that major alcohol companies are encouraging or condoning this behaviour by releasing adverts that brazenly make that same link.
The government is also beginning to take notice and is proposing a new set of regulations, including banning alcohol adverts before 9 pm. Currently the UK has some of the most liberal alcohol advertising laws in Europe - it is illegal in France, and illegal for spirits in Germany. However, the industry is keen to retain its powers of self-regulation.
The Portman Group, which is the UK regulatory body, has shown that it is prepared to take strong action to discourage the current trend. Recently, it ruled an alcopop from FCUK unacceptable due to the brand's strong following among teenagers. However, with the release of Roxxoff, a new alcopop claiming to contain aphrodisiac herbs and which is to be marketed as "creating a generation of randy superbeings", the group will have its work cut out to reverse current advertising sensibilities.
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