Grog Watch
Grog Watch

Issue #71 (7 August 2012)

Grog Watch
arrow Facebook pages regulated by advertising standards
arrow Alcohol Advertising Review Board: First report March–June 2012
arrow Reader's view: Fun + booze doesn’t always = drunk
arrow ADF news: New posters with the lot
arrow What's news?
Facebook pages regulated by advertising standards

In a landmark decision, the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) has decided that all comments on commercial Facebook pages, including comments posted by members of the public, are regarded as advertisements for the brand behind the page.

This means all comments on commercial Facebook pages must comply with the advertising regulations. For alcohol brands and products, the advertising regulations include the alcohol industry’s self- regulated Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC).

The ASB ruling was provoked by a complaint against the Smirnoff Vodka Facebook page. A complainant alleged that comments posted on Smirnoff’s page were offensive, sexist and depicted underage and irresponsible drinking.

Although the ASB dismissed the specific complaints it decided that comments posted on Facebook fit the definition of advertising:

“any material which is published or broadcast using any medium or any activity which is undertaken by or on behalf of an advertiser or marketer and over which the advertiser has reasonable control and draws the attention of the public calculated to promote … a product [or] service …”

According to the ASB, commercial companies are responsible for all comments that are published on their Facebook pages because they control the sites.  It means third party-generated, untruthful or offensive comments posted by anonymous ‘friends’ on commercial Facebook pages will be subject to consumer protection laws and regulations governing advertising.

A legal opinion quoted by The Age(1) suggested untruthful comments could include the assertion that ‘X vodka is Russian’ or that ‘X vodka is the purest vodka’ if those statements make a false claim. A statement such as ‘drinking B beer leads to sexual success’ would contravene the advertising regulations and the ABAC. Of course much advertising is designed to convey those messages by implication or association, but without making blatant claims.

If you identify comments on Facebook pages that breach the regulations, refer your complaint to the Advertising Standards Board.

Geoff Munro
Head of Policy & Advocacy

More information
(1) J Lee, ‘Social media pages are ‘ads’’ 6 August 2012, The Age

Advertising Standards Board determinations (July 2012) (see case 0272/12), or download Advertising Standards Bureau case report  0272/12 [PDF: 359KB]

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Alcohol Advertising Review Board: First report March–June 2012

The Alcohol Advertising Review Board (ARRB) is an independent body that reviews complaints from the Australian community about alcohol advertising. The Board was set up in response to concerns about the effectiveness of the alcohol industry’s self-regulation of its advertising.

This first report from the ARRB outlines the complaints received by the Board and their responses.

A summary of the findings:

  • From March–June, 63 complaints were received, referring to 53 advertisements.
  • The panel reviewed 44 complaints: 25 were upheld, 17 were upheld in part, and 2 were dismissed.
  • Not all alcohol advertisers have chosen to participate in the AARB process. Some major non-participators include Foster’s Group Limited and Woolworths Australia.

Full report: Alcohol Advertising Review Board: First report March–June 2012 [PDF: 357KB]

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Reader's view: Fun + booze doesn’t always = drunk

I recently attended an after-hours event called Smart Bar at the Melbourne Museum.  Drinks and food were available, a DJ played and there were a range of short talks on topics ranging from the history of syphilis to the body donation program at The University of Melbourne’s medical school.

Over several hours, the museum was overrun with hip young things enthusiastically running their hands over dinosaur bones, taking in lectures about mental hospitals and marvelling at gigantic hairy spiders in the insect display.

While alcohol was served (including free drink cards for a singularly unpalatable brand of flavoured beer), the bar areas were small. With a large area to roam around, people were more interested in engaging with the displays and each other than drinking.

The Smart Bar is obviously a clever marketing exercise on the part of the Museum to bring a different audience into their space. But the converse implication is interesting—that a fun and fashionable event can be held which includes but is not dominated by alcohol.

There is often an anxiety about running events—that serving alcohol may contribute to drunkenness, or that not serving alcohol may dissuade people from turning up. The Smart Bar was a well-run model of how alcohol can be one, but not the dominant, factor in a great night out.

Anna G

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ADF news: New posters with the lot

We have been busy creating new resources! They include the Aware of amphetamines manual produced with Peninsula Health, and 2 infographic posters, Men and substance use: the facts, and Facts about drinking.

Find the latest resources online from tomorrow.

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What's news?

Pilot removed from flight after alcohol claim
The Age
6 August 2012
A Qantas captain was forced to relinquish the controls of a passenger jet last week just minutes before it was due to take off from Sydney Airport after cabin crew suspected she had been drinking alcohol before the flight.

Lockouts prove key to curbing violence
The Daily Telegraph
6 August 2012
Pub lockouts that ban patrons entering licensed premises after a late night deadline but allow those already inside to keep drinking could be the answer to curbing drunken violence in Kings Cross, Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione believes.

Alcohol industry labels 'half-baked': FARE
Nine News
2 August 2012
An audit showing the alcohol industry has mostly failed to voluntarily put health warning labels on bottles and cans proves the government needs to step in, a responsible drinking lobby group says.

Board singles out irresponsible booze ads
The Age
2 August 2012
Advertisements linking alcohol with sport and an on-campus bourbon promotion are irresponsible marketing campaigns that should be withdrawn, says a new board chaired by former Australian of the Year Fiona Stanley.

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GrogWatch is a weekly update of alcohol-related news and views provided by the Community Alcohol Action Network (CAAN). CAAN is an initiative of the Australian Drug Foundation. You are receiving this e-newsletter because you have signed up as a member of CAAN or you are a GrogWatch subscriber. Unsubscribe