ALCOHOL BRANDS AND BROADCASTERS UNITE ON LIVE TV BOOZE ADS THREAT
Alcohol brands and media buyers have warned of unintended consequences if government proposals to ban alcohol advertising during daytime live sport are made law.
The Australian National Preventative Health Agency (ANPHA) has published its draft report assessing the existing regulatory codes and the protections in place to reduce children’s exposure to alcohol advertising.
The report claims the current system for protecting teenagers from alcohol advertising is “inadequate” and young people are exposed to almost as much advertising from booze brands as adults.
The proposals are broad ranging and would affect alcohol advertising across all mediums. But the most prescriptive recommendation is around live sport.
It calls for TV ads of alcohol brands during live sports broadcast before 8:30pm to be banned and brought in line with the rest of TV ad regulation. Currently the TV ad code exempts live sports broadcasts from regulations that affect the rest of TV programming.
ANPHA also calls for improvements to self regulatory code, stricter sanctions and more provision to make sure ads do not appeal to children.
The sports proposals in particular have concerned brands. CUB corporate affairs director CUB “refutes the fundamental principle” that the report rests on, suggesting that there was no evidence that advertising drives higher consumption of alcohol. While that may undermine the broader case for advertising, he pointed out that alcohol consumption in Australia is in decline.
Alcohol, along with banking, betting, cars and fast food, is one of the five pillars of sports advertising. Daube estimates the figure invested in marketing activity around sports sponsorship by brands is around $750 million, beyond the actual sponsorship deals, although it’s difficult to measure clearly. Direct advertising several years ago was around $130 million, he reckons.
One media owner suggested that the live sports proposals would have unintended consequences because it changes the commercial dynamics of sponsorship. That could leave sporting codes as well as TV companies out of pocket, which could have an impact on free to air live sports.
One media buyer suggested that other consequences could be to push sports advertising into other, less regulated channels where children are more exposed to alcohol advertising.
But Mike Daube, director of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and the Alcohol and Youth Alcohol Review board, suggested turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.
He slammed self policing as ineffective and illogical, labelling it “a charade” and the advertising industry’s efforts on education and responsible drinking campaigns “phoney”.
He labelled the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) as “feeble” and called for it to be axed and replaced by a non-industry government organisation.
“The alcohol industry is the last that should be involved in policy. It’s completely counter intuitive. Why would you trust the alcohol industry with trying to get people to buy less of its products?” he asked.
Ailish Hanley, Diageo Australia head of corporate relations, disagreed.
“The code is well-regarded and among the most robust alcohol advertising codes in the world. This is evident in the fact that less than 1.5% of complaints about advertising in Australia relate to alcohol.”
On the issue of the live sports exemption, Hanley claimed that Diageo monitors the make up of TV programmes to ensure 70% or more of the audience can “reasonably” be expected to be aged over 18.
“We believe this is a more effective way of ensuring that we target adults rather than a blunt ‘time of day’ measure which provides no certainty about whether children are watching or not,” she said.
The AANA has raised concerns over some of the report’s recommendations, particularly the calls for further regulation, which it doesn’t believe is necessary.
Sunita Gloster, CEO of the AANA, said: “Advertisers acknowledge that they have a responsibility when advertising alcohol and this is reflected in their commitment to a range of self and co-regulatory restrictions. If implemented, these recommendations will undermine the work of the self regulatory system to provide platform and technology neutral protections for children, while acknowledging marketers’ right to advertise responsibly to adults.”
“The AANA self regulatory and ABAC co-regulatory system have the flexibility to respond appropriately to changing consumer behaviour and this was demonstrated by the extension of the Codes to digital and social media and the inclusion of user generate content within the community standards piece within the Codes.”
But it is the blend of co- and self-regulation in Australian alcohol advertising regulation that is causing problems, according to Glen Wigg, professor of advertising regulation at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.
He told AdNews the ANPHA has “dropped the ball” with the report and missed a real opportunity to put in place the necessary changes that would see fragmented regulation brought under the stewardship of one organisation who could better control the industry.
Wigg suggested the Advertising Standards Bureau should take more control which would make things simpler for the industry and for consumers.
“They have tinkered with it and made it worse. One of the main problems is that Australia has a mish mash of different bodies dealing with [regulation]. Why isn’t there one organisation, one omnibus code that is administered by self-regulation. That’s what happens in new Zealand and everyone adheres to it,” he said.
Daube says there is a “momentum for change” in Australia, particularly in New South Wales in light of recent episodes of alcohol-fuelled violence. He predicts that in the next five years there will be a significant drop in the amount of alcohol advertising at the same time as an increase in health advertising adding: “I’d love to see the health advertising industry be as creative in promoting health as it is in promoting harm.”
The proposals would impact all forms of marketing, advertising and promotion, including TV, outdoor and social media, which should be a priority in Australia and internationally, according to Daube because “that’s where kids live and breathe”.
The review began a year ago. The ANPHA is now inviting the public and industry to comment on the draft before final proposals are filed to Commonwealth Minister for Heath.
Lion failed to provide a comment on the draft report and its impact on the industry.