'Cheers' to compliant advertising of alcohol.

1 June 2021 | Reading time: 3 minutes

Marketing alcohol is inherently difficult. It is held to greater scrutiny than other food and beverage products. Unsurprisingly, this means that smart ideas like Bob Hawke sculling a beer, though catchy and differentiating, can be non-compliant.

Key takeaways.

  1. The alcohol industry is competitive. As a result, innovative alcohol advertising is an important way to engage with consumers and differentiate brands from each other. However, particular care is required when marketing alcoholic beverages, including via social media.
  2. The ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code (ABAC Code) is a self-regulation scheme. It sets out minimum advertising standards for the alcohol industry.
  3. Compliance with the ABAC Code helps mitigate the risk of:
  • complaints;
  • reputational damage; and
  • costs associated with withdrawing or modifying irresponsible alcohol advertising.

What does the ABAC Code say?

The ABAC Code sets out specific requirements for alcohol advertising. Part 3(a)(i) restricts alcohol advertisers from encouraging the excessive or rapid consumption of alcoholic beverages. The ABAC Code establishes a consumer complaint framework and contraventions are determined by an ABAC Adjudication Panel.

The Jimmy Brings posts.

On 17 May 2021, the ABAC Adjudication Panel determined that 2 Instagram posts by the home delivery retailer, Jimmy Brings, contravened part 3(a)(i) of the ABAC Code by encouraging the excessive or rapid consumption of alcoholic beverages.

The contravening posts (below) implicitly promoted ‘socially acceptable’ risky drinking habits through the use of humour:


















While the ABAC Adjudication Panel acknowledged that a reasonable person would understand that neither post is seriously advocating rapid or excessive alcohol consumption, both posts were found to contravene part 3(a)(i) of the ABAC Code.

The key issue with the Instagram posts was that the humour relied on an assumption that it is socially accepted to engage in risky drinking behaviours on certain occasions (eg celebrating the end of ‘Dry July’ or sculling a beer at a sporting match). The reliance on this assumption was sufficient to render the posts non-compliant, despite their light-heartedness or good-nature.

6 tips for mitigating risks.

Often, there is a fine line between alcohol advertising that is fun and engaging, and that which is in breach of the ABAC Code. To help mitigate risks of contravening the ABAC Code, here are 6 tips for alcohol advertisers:

  1. familiarise your marketing team with, and apply the ABAC Code in, marketing and product labelling processes;
  2. acknowledge your target audience and others who might be exposed (eg minors);
  3. take advantage of the ABAC alcohol advertisement pre-vetting service;
  4. avoid promoting irresponsible consumption of alcohol, even if ‘socially acceptable’ (eg through humour, portion sizes);
  5. be aware of other relevant laws eg misleading and deceptive conduct under Australian Consumer Law; and
  6. seek legal advice and copy approval if unsure whether your advertisement is compliant with relevant laws and codes.

Get in touch with the Bespoke team if you want to discuss how you can advertise in a way that is both catchy, and compliant.