The Portman Group has created a ‘quick read’ document which highlights the main elements that producers should be mindful of to ensure that alcohol marketing does not encourage immoderate, irresponsible, or illegal consumption. Read on for the key points that you should bear in mind to stay compliant with Code rule 3.2(f).

Immoderate consumption

The quick read looks at how on-trade promotions, words, phrases, imagery and other factors could fall foul of the Code. For example, using phrases like ‘wasted’ or ‘smashed’ are likely to be an issue because of the connotation they have with intoxication. ‘Having a session’ is also likely to be an issue because it infers drinking for a long period of time is acceptable. However, it is the view of the Advisory Service that ‘session’ when used as ‘session IPA’ for example, may be acceptable where it is clearly communicating a lower strength IPA. If ‘session IPA’ were used alongside other elements though, which inferred intoxication, it may be found to be a contributing factor in a breach of the Code. Finally, using an image or depicting drunkenness in your marketing is likely to be found in breach of this Code rule because it could encourage consumers to drink to the point of being drunk.

In addition to this, the quick read also explains the points to be mindful of when using packaging which is typically single-serve and non-resealable and contains four units or more.

Irresponsible Consumption

Alcohol marketing can be found to be in breach of Code rule 3.2(f) if it encourages irresponsible consumption and it’s worth bearing in mind that it does not need to simultaneously encourage immoderate consumption to be problematic.

For example, serving ‘shared’ drinks in large containers, such as a fishbowl, without providing a way for the consumer to decant the drink (and therefore gauge how much alcohol they are consuming) is likely to be considered as encouraging irresponsible consumption. Additionally, encouraging consumers to drink at a time which would be socially irresponsible, before an exam for ‘luck’ for example, or before going to work, are likely to be seen as encouraging irresponsible consumption.

It is not just direct encouragement to drink alcohol irresponsibly that can breach this Code rule, as indirect claims will also be captured. For example, if a drink purports to have a therapeutic benefit, then a consumer may be encouraged to drink based on the implied effect gained from the drink, rather than basing consumption on alcohol content. This would indirectly encourage irresponsible consumption and is therefore unacceptable.

Illegal consumption

There are only a few scenarios when consuming alcohol is actually illegal. For example, driving whilst over the alcohol limit; or for an unaccompanied under-18 to drink alcohol in a licensed premise. There may also be scenarios where there are local policies prohibiting consumption or carrying open alcohol containers in local areas or transport networks. Any encouragement of such behaviour should be avoided.

We recommend checking out our new quick read for a brief overview and referring to our full guidance document for the full detail. As always, the Advisory Service is on hand to provide a quick, free, and confidential view under our Codes, and you can reach them here or send an email to