Nostalgic references to the sweets, clothes and cartoons of yesteryear saw a number of drinks fall foul of the alcohol marketing rules last year, according to the Portman Group’s annual report.

The Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Jenny Watson CBE, has urged marketers to be careful if they use retro designs which appeal to an adult’s inner child because they may inadvertently also appeal to children today.

Three of the five cases that came before the Independent Complaints Panel in 2017 were about the use of nostalgia-based designs with complainants concerned that references to retro sweets, clothes and cartoons could have particular appeal to children. In two of the cases, the complaints were upheld.

As well as handling complaints, the Portman Group has continued to take pro-active steps to help marketers stay on the right side of the Codes through free advice and training. 2017 was the fourth busiest year for the advisory service since 2012, with almost 500 advice requests received. The majority of these enquiries were related to packaging, with the proportion of requests higher following the publication in September last year of new best practice guidance on communicating alcohol and health related information.

This year also saw an increase in the amount of training given to marketers to keep them up to date with rules and guidance in the industry, with 621 people being trained online and face to face.

The majority of complaints received were under Code rules about particular appeal to under-18s and whether the alcoholic nature of the drink was communicated with clarity.

The Portman Group is currently updating its Code of Practice with the consultation running until the 6th July.

John Timothy, CEO of the Portman Group commented: “Marketing rules aren’t there to stifle innovation but to protect vulnerable consumers and drive up standards. If in doubt we are here to offer free and fast advice on any packaging and labelling queries. A large part of our work focuses on giving producers advice and guidance to prevent problems occurring.

“We play an important role within a functioning and effective alcohol market and we are constantly making sure that our rules stay updated and relevant. That’s why we are currently consulting on our Code of Practice and asking for views from across the industry and wider stakeholders.”

The Annual Report can be read here.