Editorial: Lambrini is unlucky but tough laws are needed

Lambrini is an alcohol brand whose advertising is always likely to attract a disproportionate amount of scrutiny by watchdogs.

For one thing, its advertisng is targeted slap bang at young women, a social group deemed to be particularly prone to binge-drinking. For another, and this is hard to put tactfully, its consumers are not the most sophisticated.

As David Bell, the chief executive of Cheethambell JWT, Lambrini's agency, once declared: "A Lambrini girl probably doesn't know what the word patronising means."

Not surprisingly, Lambrini ads and their smutty innuendo have been closely watched by the Advertising Standards Authority. Now Halewood International, which produces Lambrini, has been left fuming over the ASA's demand for amendments to an ad featuring three young girls winning a hunky male model in a fairground. Halewood is perhaps entitled to feel a bit miffed over what seems like an over-zealous interpretation of newly tightened rules, which ban any connection in alcohol ads between drink and sexual conquest.

Nevertheless, it is understandable, given the pressure the ASA is under from Ofcom and the Government to keep alcohol ads under control. Previous lax policing, which allowed ads through the net even though they flouted the spirit of the regulations, have not helped.

The ASA is stuck between a rock and a hard place, determined alcohol advertisers should not be allowed to repeat past excesses but not wishing to be cast as a killjoy. Indeed, the ASA has insisted its intention isn't to bar attractive people from drinks ads. The hope must be that the paranoia over the way the rules are being interpreted will subside and more common-sense and pragmatic attitudes emerge.

Too rigorous enforcement of the regulations will simply make the ASA look daft. At the same time, it is incumbent on alcohol advertisers and their agencies not to try to get away with something behind teacher's back. That attitude can lead only to disaster.

With binge-drinking being combated by new licensing regulations giving local authorities greater powers to control happy hours, now is not the time for drinks advertisers to rock the boat.