The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) has released its annual report for 2021, which highlights the record workload for the scheme over last year.

Over the course of 2021 ABAC received 3336 requests to pre-vet marketing materials, with 501 of those rejected prior to entering the market – highlighting the importance of the Scheme’s pre-vetting service. This is an increase of over one-third on the previous year’s pre-vetting requests.

The other advantage of pre-vetting has been highlighted in independent research conducted by JWS Research, which found the Australian public continued to support the standards upheld by ABAC regarding alcohol marketing, with a majority (60 per cent) saying they had no concerns with alcohol advertising, labelling or packaging over the past 12 months.

In addition to pre-vetting ABAC reviewed 288 complaints, resulting in 153 determinations by the ABAC panel. Eighty determinations were upheld with determinations completed in an average of 19.6 days – the Scheme has a 30-day target for determinations.

ABAC independent chair Henry Jenkins said alcohol marketing adapted in 2021 in response to the changing ways alcohol could be sold during COVID. This in turn drove a surge in demand for ABAC’s services.

“Alongside normal activity, in 2021 the industry also had to deal with the closure of licensed premises, a shift toward at-home consumption, new delivery methods and takeaway products,” Jenkins said.

“The associated marketing of all of these new measures was subject to the established regulatory framework. As a result, the year 2021 was an extremely busy year for ABAC, with record levels of activity for our Adjudication Panel and the Pre-vetting service. 

“Possibly the most pleasing aspect of the record activity during the year was the 3336 requests for pre-vetting, an over one third increase on the previous year. Rejections numbered 501, about 15 per cent of requests. This is important pro-active work, and our pre-vetters deserve congratulations on these impressive results.

“The Chief Adjudicator, Professor Michael Lavarch, and his colleagues are to be commended for dealing with their record workload in an efficient and timely manner, and the clarity and consistency of their determinations.

“The majority of ABAC complaints and breaches related to digital social media posts, with the lack of age restriction on certain social media posts generating particular concern.

“A positive of 2021 for ABAC was the commissioning of JWS Research to explore current public perceptions of alcohol marketing and how the ABAC Complaints Panel determinations align with the understanding of a ‘reasonable person’,” Jenkins said.

“The research found that the Code’s content standards align with community expectations for alcohol marketing and in some cases, appear to be more conservative.”

Jenkins also said the Scheme’s pre-vetters deserve congratulations on their “impressive results” in dealing with such a significant increase in the number of requests they received.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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