Influencer marketing, alcohol and youthful looks
ASA ruling on Sazerac UK Ltd t/a Southern ComfortThe question
What if your influencer appears younger than they are when it comes to posts promoting alcohol?
The key takeaway
Tread carefully when mixing alcohol and influencers. Advertisers must ensure that those drinking alcohol or playing a significant role in their advertising neither are, nor crucially seem to be, under 25 years of age.
The case concerned two Instagram posts promoting Southern Comfort:
(A) A post on Francesca Perks’ Instagram page on 29 October 2019 included the caption “AD. I can put my hand up and say I’m not a cocktail aficionado by any means, but boy do I love a slushie, so when @southerncomfortuk asked me to put a spin on a shark bite, I knew an adult slushie was the only route to take this down, so that my friends is what I present you with! Head over to my stories to how I conjured up this frozen beauty!”. The post included two images, one showed Francesca holding a cocktail, the other showed the cocktail on a table with a bottle of Southern Comfort in the background.
(B) A post on Jack Remmington’s Instagram page on 29 October 2019 included the caption “#AD So my bezzie mate’s fave drink in the world is Southern Comfort and we got creative with this Halloween inspired treat! Obvy cos it’s me I wanted to jazz it up and be extra, so have a gander over on my stories to see what we came up with. Let me know what you’d have added to the cocktail to make it extra special! Thank you @southerncomfortuk and @twisted for letting our imagination run wild (and for the beaut bev!)”. The post included two images, one showed Jack and a woman drinking a cocktail, the other showed the cocktail next to a bottle of Southern Comfort.
The complainant challenged whether ad (A) breached the CAP Code because it featured someone who seemed to be, or who was, under 25 years of age. The ASA challenged ad (B) on the same basis.
Sazerac UK Ltd t/a Southern Comfort responded that the ads were designed to promote a ‘Shark Bite’ drink served over the week of Halloween. They said that they engaged Francesca Perks and Jack Remmington to develop their version of the Shark Bite. They said that Ms Perks was 22 years old when the ad was posted. Upon receipt of the complaint, Southern Comfort requested Ms Perks remove the post from her feed to avoid further views. Ms Perks confirmed that she had removed the post upon being notified of the complaint by the ASA and confirmed that in future she would not engage in alcohol related marketing which would breach the Advertising Code. However, in Mr Remmington’s post, both he and his friend featured in the ad were 25 years.
Both ads were found to have breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 18.16 (Alcohol). The CAP Code states that when advertisers show people drinking alcohol, or where they play a significant role in a marketing communication for alcohol, they must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25 years of age.
Here, both ads showed images which contained a bottle of Southern Comfort and a cocktail made using the drink. Ms Perks in ad (A) and Mr Remmington and his friend in ad (B) were the focus of the images and the ASA considered that they each played a significant role in their respective ads. Together with the text included in the posts, the ASA found it was clear from the ads’ contexts that they were drinking alcoholic drinks.
In relation to ad (A), on the basis that Mrs Perks was 22 years old when the ad was posted, the ASA found that the ad had breached the CAP Code. Although Mr Remmington and his friend were both 25 years old when ad (B) was posted, the ASA also concluded that ad (B) had breached the CAP Code. The ASA found that both men appeared young in the image and that they seemed to be under 25 years old.
Why is this important?
The rulings highlight once again how careful drink brands need to be to ensure that any influencers shown drinking alcohol, or playing a significant role in the brand’s advertising, neither are, nor crucially seem to be, under 25 years of age - an impression which may be compounded by the general nature of the images used.
Any practical tips?
When using an influencer to advertise alcohol, think not just about their age, but the impression they are presenting to their audience. Young-looking over 25s, especially those acting in an immature way, may quickly attract the attention of complainants and regulators.