Alcohol ad rules tightened up

Industry watchdogs warn that irresponsible portrayal of alcoholic drinks in ads will not be tolerated.

Advertising watchdogs have signalled their intention to clamp down on the rogue TV alcohol advertisers they fear are fuelling binge drinking.

The Advertising Standards Authority and the BACC will be armed with tougher powers, after a series of TV drink ads were allowed on air despite flouting the rules.

A consultation document drawn up by the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice proposes that no commercial should suggest alcohol is the essential pre-requisite for a successful party.

Nor should a TV ad link alcohol to sexuality or encourage yobbish behaviour by young drinkers. This would mean the end of controversial commercials for brands such as Bacardi and the alcopop WKD, both of which have had complaints upheld against them in recent months.

And in a further tightening of the rules, alcohol producers will be barred from making health claims about their products. This is partly because medical opinion is divided over whether or not drinking in moderation is beneficial, and partly because of the arrival of low-calorie beers from the US.

Andrew Brown, BCAP's chairman, said: "This doesn't mean war is being declared on the alcohol industry, only on a minority of ads that have mischief at their heart."

The BCAP initiative follows the introduction of a tougher Ofcom-approved code on alcohol advertising at the beginning of the year.

BCAP's task is to consult on how the Ofcom rules should be interpreted by the ASA and the BACC.

Six months ago, the ASA issued a warning to Anheuser-Busch about a poster campaign for Michelob Ultra, which implied the product helped improve fitness.

Industry sources this week suggested the ASA was unlikely to adopt a Draconian stance on alcohol and that the guidelines were designed to allow each case to be judged on its merits.

"The ASA will want to tread cautiously for fear of alienating those in the industry already unhappy that it has extended its remit to TV," an insider said.

"Its big hope is that the new licensing regulations, which give local authorities greater powers to control things such as happy hours, will take the heat off advertising."