Tis the season of festivity, and most people are looking forward to enjoying time with family and friends getting in the holiday spirit. The winter season can be a great way to engage with consumers and has become a focal point in the marketing calendar. It is important to remember though, that even during the holiday season, alcohol marketing needs to be compliant with our Codes.

The Advisory Service often sees winter holiday specific marketing and promotions which fall on the wrong side of the line – so we’ve compiled a list of the main issues that tend to arise.

Particular Appeal to under-18s

It is the view of the Advisory Service that Christmas and other winter holiday celebrations have a ubiquitous appeal to all ages. However, some familiar characters are likely to resonate with children, in a way they won’t with adults, so including them in alcohol marketing can mean that it crosses the line of acceptability. Festive elements such as Christmas trees, baubles, presents and food all tend to be acceptable (depending on depiction of course) because these are elements of the season which resonate with consumers of all ages.

However, character such as Santa Claus or Rudolph for example, are riskier inclusions in marketing because both characters feature prominently in media targeted at children. Films, stories and Christmas carols all consumed by children tend to have these characters as a main focus, and for many children a visit from Santa and his sleigh are a highlight of the season. While adults may enjoy this media, the test of Code rule 3.2(h) is not one of quantity but rather whether an element is likely to have a particular appeal to children. It is the view of the Advisory Service therefore that such characters are likely to have a particular appeal to under-18s and should be avoided.

It is not just inclusion of characters which can cause issues, as the overall impression conveyed by marketing will ultimately determine compliance. Artwork, colours, and flavours can all inadvertently cause a drink to have a particular appeal to under-18s and that is something that should be considered when creating a festive drink, particularly for the on-trade. Our guidance has recently been updated to help the industry comply with Code rule 3.2(h) and can be read here.

Irresponsible or immoderate consumption

The Code does not only apply to the naming and packaging of alcohol drinks, but to promotional materials and activities as well – in both the off-trade and the on-trade. While many consumers will be thankful for a bargain this year, it’s important to consider whether a promotional offer could encourage immoderate or irresponsible consumption. For example, discounted time-sensitive promotions are unlikely to be acceptable under the Code. This is because the nature of the promotion indirectly encourages immoderate consumption as a consumer may buy, and therefore consume, more than they otherwise would have done to maximise savings.

Similarly, encouraging consumers to indulge in excess drinking because it is the holiday season is unlikely to be okay, even if the promotion is intended to be humorous or tongue in cheek. Phrases like ‘get drinking – its Christmas’ or ‘tis the season to get wasted’ are both unlikely to be okay under the Code. Producers should be mindful that marketing should not encourage consumers to drink immoderately or irresponsibly.

Social Success and change in mood or behaviour

We see a lot of alcohol marketing over the holiday period which can highlight a drink’s premium qualities thereby making it an ideal choice for a special occasion. While there is nothing wrong with suggesting that a premium drink is ideal for a special occasion, or presenting alcohol as a legitimate accompaniment to socialising, care needs to be taken that it does not suggest it is integral to social success.

Phrases such as ‘get the party started with X’ or ‘Take your holiday season to the next level with X’ are unlikely to be acceptable because of the suggestion that the alcohol is elevating a social occasion or making it more fun than it would have been otherwise.

Equally, suggestions that alcohol can relax a consumer, help them to forget the stress that the holiday season can bring or generally put them in a festive mood are all likely to be unacceptable. Again, this is because there is a suggestion that a consumer’s mood or behaviour has changed on the basis of consuming alcohol.

We know that there is a lot to think about during the holiday season, so the Advisory Service as always is on hand to help. Contact us for a free, quick, confidential view here.