The Portman Group has today announced the fifth major review of its Code of Practice to future proof the framework that governs alcohol marketing in the UK.

The watchdog is calling on everyone with an interest in alcohol marketing to respond to the public consultation that will run for 10 weeks. Some of the key issues being raised include:

  • Changes in mood or behaviour – giving the Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) further powers to rule against implications that alcohol consumption will ‘improve’ mental/physical capabilities;
  • Defining immoderate consumption – establishing a new and credible definition for assessing complaints about irresponsible sampling promotions or packaging such as single-serve, non-resealable containers, following the removal of daily guidelines from the Chief Medical Officers’ lower risk drinking guidelines;
  • Offering additional protection to vulnerable individuals – by amending the Code to protect those that are socially or mentally vulnerable;
  • Strengthening the code to prohibit direct or indirect links with alcohol and illegal activity;
  • Introducing a new rule with supporting guidance addressing serious and widespread offence, such as sexism in marketing.

Stakeholders are also invited to identify new issues or concerns, in particular around technology and the evolving marketing and consumer landscape.

The consultation is available to download from the Portman Group website.

Commenting on the review, John Timothy, Chief Executive of the Portman Group, said:

“This is a great opportunity to shape the future of alcohol regulation and I urge anyone with a view on alcohol marketing to get involved.  We have one of the strongest and most effective systems of self-regulation in the UK and we want to keep it that way. By asking challenging and ambitious questions now we can ensure the Code provides the right balance between maintaining the highest standards of responsible marketing and allowing producers the freedom to create great brands and campaigns which are so important to the UK’s economy.”

This will be the fifth review of the Portman Group Code since it was first introduced in 1996 and will result in the introduction of the sixth edition of the Code in Spring 2019. Since the Code was introduced in 1996, the packaging and/or marketing of more than 150 drinks has been found to be in breach the Code. The Portman Group also provides a free and confidential advisory service for alcohol producers and agencies to check products and campaigns prior to launch and to seek advice on responsible alcohol marketing.

Alcohol marketing in the UK is governed through a system of co-regulation between the Advertising Standards Authority, OfCom and the Portman Group. Some of the proposed changes will align the Code with existing regulations, cultural changes and industry innovation.