Company: Bass Brewers Ltd
Final Decision: 24 September 1996
Considered under the 1st Edition of the Code
“The use of the term Hooch is unacceptable due to its traditional meaning of an illicit strong drink and the suggestion that it is an illegal product. In addition, this range of products continue to use the type of cartoon figures which are more likely to appeal to under 18s than adults, being similar in design and therefore in appeal to many existing cartoon characters which appeal to under 18s. The Advertising Standards Authority has already ruled that advertisements for Hooch be removed because the cartoon character appeals to under 18s.”
The company said that the word has a range of meanings associated with alcohol and is now in some usage by reference to alcoholic drinks generally. They argued that if Hooch (their emphasis) is associated with alcohol then it would be entirely proper to use it in relation to an alcoholic drink.
The company disputed that the cartoon characters it uses on the product packaging are more likely to appeal to under 18s. The company provided detailed documentation concerning the ASA case referred to by the complainants.
It was considered that the word Hooch does not have currency in the UK in the 1990s as a term for illicit drink. It was concluded that the use of the word Hooch would not confuse people as to the alcoholic nature of the product and would not, of itself, be more likely to appeal to under 18s.
Only The Portman Group Code of Practice was considered and not matters related to the ASA case. It was accepted that there was no deliberate attempt to appeal to children.
‘Cartoon characters’ Complaint
Having considered the complaint objectively, it was concluded that the cartoon characters on the three products in the current range – lemon, blackcurrant and orange – were similar to existing motifs appealing to under 18s.
Action by Company
Bass responded stating that: “Bass does not believe that the Hooch label appeals predominantly to under 18s but agrees to accept the Portman Group’s findings. The cartoon character will be removed from all new packaging.”