A recent complaint by a member of the public against Babe White With Bubbles and Babe Rose With Bubbles was not upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel (ICP). The ICP concluded the products did not have a particular appeal to under-18s. A copy of the full decision is available here.
Produced by ZX Ventures Limited, an AB InBev Group Company, the complaint was made in relation to rule 3.2 (h) – that a drink’s name, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not have a particular appeal to under-18s.
The complainant stated: “The brand name BABE, has broad appeal to anyone who uses that nickname for friends or intimates. I bought the product on this basis (to gift to my wife) but I can see that this may also appeal to under 18s in a similar way (for instance, a 17 year-old buying a small gift for a girlfriend).”
The producer of Babe stated that it took its compliance under the Portman Group’s Code of Practice seriously and was committed to marketing its products in a socially responsible manner. In its response, the company referenced the Oxford Dictionary’s description of the etymology which states that the term ‘Babe’ was first used around 1915 to mean an attractive young woman and had been used as a romantic phrase since 1911. The company explained that it was not a recent slang phrase or derived from youth culture, but rather use of the term as an endearment nickname had been around for over 100 years and was used by friends and couples of all ages. The company also detailed that the name, imagery and overall impression conveyed by the product did not have particular appeal to under-18s. For these reasons, the company felt the product was fully compliant with the Code.
The Panel noted that both cans employed a limited colour palette which was muted, did not include any characters or cartoon-like illustrations, and that the font used for the name and additional text was sharp and stark as opposed to childlike. The drink’s alcoholic nature was also communicated with absolute clarity and was therefore unlikely to cause consumer confusion as to the adult nature of the product. As ‘babe’ is a generic term used in various parts of the UK by a wide range of age groups as a term of endearment, the Panel determined use of this word was unlikely to have a particular appeal to under-18s.
Commenting on the decision, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said: “Names matter, particularly when considered alongside other elements on packaging that emphasise and tell a brand story. In the case of the Babe wines, the products were adult in nature, and the overall appearance and messaging were not considered to have a particular appeal to under-18s.”
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