The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) announced new changes that will extend regulations to no and low alcohol beverages, as well as strengthening existing advertisement restrictions.

The review of the ABAC follows an increase in complaints as noted in its second quarterly report for 2023. Australian alcohol marketers are required to adhere to a number of changes which will be implemented from 1 August 2023 to strengthen existing standards.

The key changes include stronger placement restrictions, this will include the requirement for a higher adult audience of 80 per cent before an alcohol advertisement can be placed within a programme, as well as greater restrictions around direct marketing to protect the vulnerable.

With the review of the ABAC, regulations will now be extended to no and very low alcohol style beverages. Additionally, clearer restrictions will be put in place to prevent alcohol being positioned as a coping mechanism or negatively portraying the choice to abstain from alcohol consumption.

“The new code will equip the scheme to address emerging concerns raised by the public through the complaints system,” said ABAC Chair, Harry Jenkins.

When compared with the same quarter last year, ABAC complaints and determinations have seen a large increase, while pre-vetting requests saw a 10% decrease.

Jenkins reminded marketers of the misuse of certain marketing themes: “Packaging with soft drink and confectionary themes is an area that attracts public complaints as seen in recent determinations and the new code provides greater clarity and updates around the meaning of ‘strong or evident’.”

“Showing excess or rapid consumption of alcohol caused the majority of breaches last quarter and I urge marketers to move away from using these themes and images in their social media posts.”

“The new code clarifies that excessive consumption is inconsistent with the Australian Alcohol Guidelines set by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council. Often these themes are shown humorously, and the new code makes it very clear that treating excessive or rapid consumption as amusing is a clear breach of responsible marketing standards.”

Among content related complaints were a number of social media posts breaching at least one code by showing the consumption of alcohol during swimming or other water-based activities.

“The ABAC Panel continue to receive complaints about ads showing alcohol use before or during swimming,” said Jenkins. “The community is concerned about this issue due to the increased risk associated with these activities after alcohol has been consumed and this continues as a key provision in the new code.”

The ABAC provides a free one hour online training course for alcohol marketers to familiarise themselves with the new code.

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