‘Bottomless prosecco’ email offer lands Bill’s in bother

proseccoThe Bill’s Restaurant chain has been whacked by the ad watchdog over a digital marketing campaign which encouraged excessive consumption of alcohol during this summer’s heatwave by offering customers an endless supply prosecco for 90 minutes.

A marketing email and website ad for Bill’s Soho, sent in July, featured the subject heading “Bottomless Prosecco to beat the heat!” The body of the email featured the heading “Enjoy Bottomless Prosecco This Heatwave Weekend”.

Smaller text underneath stated: “Select any item and enjoy 90 minutes of unlimited prosecco for just £16.50 per person. What else could you wish for? Our all day brunch menu features naughty favourites all washed down with a lovely glass (or several) of prosecco”, with similar wording on its website.

However, the opportunity to indulge in this drink fest did not go down so well with some customers, who complained to the Advertising Standards Authority and challenged whether the ads were socially irresponsible because they implied, condoned, or encouraged excessive consumption of alcohol.

In response to the ASA inquiry, Bill’s said that it was a restaurant chain which was generally not perceived by the public as being associated with the excessive consumption of alcohol or as a purely “drink based” establishment.

The business said the ads made it clear that the promotion was exclusively available with the purchase of a meal, with the majority of the wording being used to describe and promote the food element of the promotion.

The promotion was subject to further terms and conditions published on the Bill’s website, expressly aimed at encouraging responsible drinking, and Bill’s said that the phrase “a lovely glass (or several) of prosecco” did not necessarily imply that a consumer was being encouraged to drink at least three glasses or that they might lose track of the number of glasses that had been consumed.

The firm maintained that this simply reflected that a consumer who took part in the promotion was likely to have more than one glass of prosecco, accompanied with a meal and over a limited period of 90 minutes.

Even so, Bill’s did accept that the use of the phrase “beat the heat” could be interpreted as encouraging consumers to drink prosecco in the hot weather. It said future ads for the promotion would prominently advertise a non-alcoholic option, include a statement that drinking to excess will not be permitted, and that participants would be required to drink responsibly at all times along with a link to their T&Cs and the Drink Aware website.

However, these commitments were all too little, too late for the ASA, which concluded that the reference to “several” glasses of prosecco condoned and encouraged excessive drinking and would be understood to mean drinking at least three glasses in the period allocated, and that the term’s vagueness risked implying that consumers might lose track of the number of glasses they had consumed.

In addition, the ASA considered the unlimited alcohol offer was positioned as a way of coping with the heatwave and that prosecco was suited to consumption in heatwave weather, encouraging excessive drinking in especially dangerous circumstances.

Banning the ads from running again, the watchdog also warned Bill’s about its future activity.

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