The increasing popularity of alcohol-free alternatives has prompted the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to introduce new rules and guidance for advertisers of these products. On the 14th November, ASA released a regulatory statement which outlined changes to advertising and these rules take effect on 14th May 2024.

These new rules have been developed to ensure responsible advertising of alcohol alternatives and to protect consumers from potential harm. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) set out the rules which apply to advertising. Both committees recognise the potential benefits of alcohol alternatives in promoting moderation and reducing overall alcohol consumption. However, they also acknowledge concerns about the potential for these products to be misrepresented or marketed in a way that could lead to harmful consumption patterns.

Changes to the rules

The updated regulations and guidance encompass various aspects, including definitions, presentation of Alcohol By Volume (ABV) statements, responsibility (specifically, avoiding the indirect promotion of alcohol), and restrictions on targeting and scheduling. The key points are as follows:

Applicability of Alcohol Rules: If an advertisement for an alcohol alternative has the unintended effect of promoting alcoholic beverages, the full set of alcohol rules will be applicable. However, when the advertisement is for an alcohol alternative under the same brand as an alcoholic drink, the alcoholic drinks rules won't apply to brand references, provided the primary purpose of the advertisement is to promote the alcohol alternative. References to the shared brand name, without mentioning the alcohol alternative, are likely to be treated as references to alcohol and subject to alcohol rules.

ABV Statement Inclusion: Advertisements for alcohol alternatives must prominently display their ABV. The guidance specifies that the ABV should be presented with reasonable prominence in the advertisement. Footnotes, onscreen text, or the equivalent for audio advertisements are unlikely to meet the standard of sufficient prominence and will be subject to the rules relating to alcoholic drinks.

Depiction of Alcohol Alternatives: Advertisements can depict alcohol alternatives in scenarios where alcoholic drinks would be inappropriate or unsafe, such as people with underlying health conditions or a designated driver, as long as it is evident that the product is an alcohol alternative. However, these advertisements must not endorse or encourage the consumption of alcoholic beverages in similar situations or promote heavy drinking in general.

Target Audience Restrictions: Advertisements for alcohol alternatives should not be directed at individuals under the age of 18 or be designed to appeal to them, especially through association with youth culture. Additionally, these advertisements should not prominently feature individuals who are or appear to be under 25 years of age.

Impact on advertisers

Advertisers will need to carefully review their existing campaigns and ensure that updates are made to ensure compliance with the new guidelines. This may involve, to name a few, revising the advertising visuals, rethinking the overall messaging of the campaign and/or updating their advertising strategies. As the alcohol alternatives market continues to expand, these guidelines will play a crucial role in shaping the advertising landscape and fostering a culture of responsible consumption.

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