Company: Stiffy’s Shots Ltd
Final Decision: 25 February 2004
Considered under the 3rd Edition of the Code.
“The brand name of the drink “Stiffys Shots, is an entirely inappropriate name for an alcoholic drink. We can think of no other context where the word ‘stiffy’ is used other than in a sexual context. The website, www.stiffys.co.uk , uses language associated with sex such as ‘Welcum 2 Stiffys Shots’ and ‘R U Cummin…in?’- Alcohol Focus Scotland
“…[the product] sounded rather irresponsible, particularly as it seemed to marketed for younger people…also, the drink comes in flavours like cola cubes, which I think makes it appealing to children.” – Member of the public, Shropshire
Alcohol Focus Scotland
Member of the public, Shropshire
Under Code paragraph 3.1
The alcoholic nature of a drink should be communicated on its packaging with absolute clarity.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(d)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with sexual success.
Under Code paragraph 3.2 (h)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way incorporate images of people who are, or look as if they are, under twenty-five years of age, unless there is no suggestion that they have just consumed, are consuming or are about to consumer alcohol.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(g)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under-18s.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel first considered whether the product’s alcoholic nature was communicated with absolute clarity on its packaging. It noted that the bottle label displayed the product’s strength as ‘25% Vol’ but was concerned that this reference was on the side of the label and that there was no product descriptor. The Panel therefore concluded that the alcoholic nature of the product was not clearly communicated and hence found the product’s packaging in breach of Code paragraph 3.1.
The Panel then considered whether the brand name suggested an association with sexual success. It noted the producers’ arguments that ‘Stiffy’ was the nickname of the person who invented the drink, was a term widely used in surfboarding and extreme sports and that the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition was non-sexual. Although it acknowledged that ‘a stiffy’ was also commonly used slang for an erection, the Panel noted that the brand name contained the word stiffy in the plural in a way that implied the use of the possessive i.e. Stiffy’s Shots. In view of this, the Panel concluded that the brand name did not suggest an association with sexual success and therefore did not breach Code paragraph 3.2(d).
The Panel was concerned, however, that an apparently shortened version of the brand name had been used on the website in phrases such as “Have you had a stiffy tonight?” and “Do you like stiffys?” and considered that this approach suggested an association with sexual success. The Panel considered that in view of alcohol’s potential to impair judgement and affect behaviour, to link alcohol and sexual activity in a drink’s name was undesirable because it might encourage excessive consumption as well as encourage and/or trivialise potentially harmful attitudes and behaviour. It considered that Code paragraph 3.2(d) was designed to prevent such marketing approaches and therefore found the website in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(d).
The Panel then considered whether the product had a particular appeal to under 18s. It concluded that neither the packaging nor the flavour variants ‘blak liq’, ‘kola kubes’ or ‘strawberriz n cream’ had a particular appeal to under 18s. Hence, the Panel did not find the product in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(g).
The Panel finally considered the images of people used on the website. Although it noted that the website had since been withdrawn by the producers, the Panel nevertheless concluded that at the time of the complaint, the website featured images of people who looked under twenty-five years of age. Hence, the Panel found the website in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(h).
Action by company
The company agreed to amend the product label to comply with the Code and to consult the Portman Group’s Advisory Service before re-launching the website.