ASA ruling on promoting alcohol – Tequila Rose

Published on 21 January 2020

What if your influencer looks younger than they are when it comes to posts promoting alcohol?

The key takeaway 

Tread carefully when mixing alcohol and influencers. Check audience demographics, as well as other factors such as whether the influencer is, or seems to be, under 25 

The ad

Fashion blogger Holly Ah-Thion published two posts seen on 4 May 2019 on her Instagram account @thekittyluxe, for the alcoholic liqueur brand, Tequila Rose:
  • The first post showed Holly holding a shot glass filled with pink liquid, a bottle of Tequila Rose and another shot glass filled with pink liquid on a table in front of her. The post was captioned: “#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”.
  • The second post featured a bottle of Tequila Rose and two shot glasses filled with pink liquid on a table next to a vase of flowers.
The complaint

One complaint challenged whether the ads inappropriately targeted individuals under 18. The ASA also challenged whether the first post breached the Code because Holly appeared to be under 25 years old.

The response

Halewood International (the makers of Tequila Rose) stated that 98% of Holly’s followers were over 18 and that her profile described her as a “millennial” with posts related to fashion, brunch, jewellery and city-living; interests it felt wouldn’t appeal to individuals under 18. Halewood said it was unaware that Holly was under 25 when they approached her for the campaign and provided evidence showing that she was 25 when the first ad was published and screenshots of posts made by her in the run-up to her 25th birthday.

Holly provided a copy of her Instagram Analytics breakdown which showed 2% of her followers were aged 13-17 years. She said the post was supposed to depict a “date night” which she believed was an adult theme. 

The decision

CAP Code rule 18.15 requires that ads for alcoholic drinks are not directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appeared. It further requires that no medium should be used to advertise alcoholic drinks if more than 25% of its audience is under 18. The ASA did not find the ads in breach of rule 18.15, as Holly’s content (which consisted primarily of posts about lifestyle, travel and shopping) did not generally focus on themes likely to be appealing to under 18s and did not feature under 18s. Additionally, as the posts were non-paid for, the ads would only have been seen by her followers and in the feeds of those who “re-grammed” her posts. Audience figures provided showed that less than 25% of Holly’s audience were under the age of 18.

However, rule 18.16 of the CAP Code states that people shown drinking alcohol or playing a significant role in a marketing communication must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25. While accepting Holly was 25 at the time of the posts, the ASA considered that Holly may have been deemed to be under 25 by some consumers and as she was the focus of the image, she played a significant role in the ad, causing the ad to be in breach of the Code.

Why is this important?

This ruling highlights that drink brands must not concentrate on audience demographics alone – they need to look at the wider context of the ad and whether other sections of the Code may be in play (eg age restrictions on those featured).

Any practical tips?

When using an influencer to advertise alcohol, think not just about their age, but also how old they look! And don’t forget the ever-important audience demographics. Put another way, make sure you tick all the boxes when mixing that dangerous cocktail of alcohol and influencers. 

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