Valentine’s Day Advice


Happy…Valentine’s Day?  Christmas may be just around the corner but marketing teams are already focused on next year.    Seasonal marketing campaigns provide an opportunity to offer ‘limited edition’ variants of brands and promotional materials.  With Valentine’s Day on the horizon and the specific rules about alcohol and romance we want to make sure your 2016 campaign doesn’t end in heartbreak. Laura Demorais from the Portman Group’s Code Advisory Service has created this brief guide to help marketers keep products and promotions responsible and in line with the industry Codes.

“As always under the Code, it is the overall impression that is important, both explicitly and implicitly.  A good starting point is to consider each design element individually to see whether they will work under the Code.  Once you’re happy that each individual element isn’t likely to be a problem in itself under the Code you’ll need to look at how they combine and what sort of overall impression do they create? Some key areas to think about for Valentine’s Day promotions are:

True Romance?

Allusions to romance are acceptable under the Code providing that there is no suggestion that the alcohol has been the catalyst for the behaviour, is essential to the success of the relationship, or has played a role in the outcome of the event. 

Risqué Imagery?

Connotations most associated with Valentine’s Day are likely to include love hearts, roses, declarations of love and red/pink colouring.  In isolation, the Advisory Service does not consider that these elements individually are creating, implicitly or explicitly, an association with sexual activity or sexual success and are arguably more romantic in nature (rule 3.2d).  However, this is heavily dependent on how the elements are presented, for instance, are there any accompanying strong sexual images/innuendoes that are creating a link to sexual activity?

Overly suggestive?

Strong sexual images will breach the Code even if nothing directly suggests that the drink enhances the drinker’s sexual capabilities.  The context of an image will be important in determining whether the image is in breach of the Code, for example, an image of a person in sexy underwear lying on a bed will be viewed as more gratuitous (and therefore likely to be unacceptable) than an image which depicts people in swimwear in a beach scene.

Too childish?

When used in combination, elements such as love hearts, pink colouring, childish font, cute teddy bears and teenage language, i.e. ‘I ♥ U 4eva’, run a high risk of breaching the Code for potentially having a particular appeal to under-18s (rule 3.2h).  A fine balance needs to be struck between appealing to adults and avoiding references which are overtly adult in nature (sexual activity/success).

If you have any further questions about this guidance or would like to seek advice, or a hard copy of the Code please contact the Advisory Service on 020 7290 1460 or

Further information:

Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks

Independent Complaints Panel Decisions

Code Training