Last orders: Call for curbs on £6bn alcohol marketing

beer2The Government is being urged to include alcohol marketing in the new crackdown on advertising so-called junk food, on the back of new research with claims the majority of Brits would support measures to limit exposure of booze ads to young people.

According to the Advertising Code, the rules already state that alcohol ads must not be directed at people under 18 or contain anything that is likely to appeal to them by reflecting youth culture, and individuals that feature in alcohol ads must be 25 years of age or over, and look it.

There are also strict controls around the placement of alcohol ads and they are currently banned from appearing in and around programmes targeted at audiences below the age of 18 and programmes likely to appeal particularly to this age group.

But pressure group Alcohol Health Alliance claims these rules do not go far enough, and is now calling on ministers to include booze ads in the new advertising restrictions for food and drink brands high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS).

These measures will see HFSS ads banned on TV before the 9pm watershed and increased restrictions online.

The organisation cites a new survey from YouGov, which quizzed 12,247 UK adults and found more than three-quarters (77%) would support measures to limit the exposure of children and young people to alcohol advertising.

Furthermore, 70% of respondents would support a ban on alcohol ads from being shown on TV before 9pm, and 72% would back ads being shown only in cinema screenings with an 18 age certificate.

Just over half (57%) of consumers would favour a ban on alcohol advertising on out of home sites.

New restrictions could potentially be a huge blow to the sector, which spends more than £6bn on advertising. Half of this spend currently goes on TV ads, although this is expected to decline 2.4% a year as audiences on linear TV get smaller, according to Zenith’s Business Intelligence – Alcohol Beer and Spirits report, published in May.

The research forecasts budgets will start moving towards digital channels, which accounted for 19% of spend in 2019 but will rise to 30% by 2023.

AHA UK chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said: “The public want to see more done to limit young people’s exposure to alcohol advertising. The Government must now introduce comprehensive marketing restrictions in both the real world and digital spaces to ensure that children are protected from alcohol advertising and its harm.”

Interestingly, the AHA might have an unexpected ally in its fight. A recent study carried out by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, ‘The CMO 50’, revealed that most marketers would welcome stricter regulation of the advertising industry, with just 26% of professionals reckoning the current regime is fit for purpose.

The survey of the most senior marketers across 50 of the UK’s largest corporates, charities and marketing agencies, found that more than a third (34%) support restrictions for alcohol ads, even more (76%) wanted tougher rules for products that damage the environment, gambling (72%), and products aimed at children (58%).

Even so, the Institute of Economic Affairs head of lifestyle economics Christopher Snowdon, countered: “If the aim of alcohol advertising was to get young people to drink, the booze companies would be wasting millions of pounds. The fact of the matter is that advertising is irrelevant except as a way to promote individual brands.

“Boris Johnson’s food advertising ban will not work and nor would further restrictions on alcohol advertising. Nanny statists need to grow up and stop trying to ban the marketing of anything they don’t like.”

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