Beer brands’ influencer campaigns breached guidelines, watchdog finds

Lion’s beer brands XXXX and Furphy, along with boutique brewer Wilde, have been cited by an industry watchdog for breaching alcohol advertising guidelines, leading to a call for influencer campaigns promoting alcohol to be banned.

In a series of rulings, the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Adjudication Panel found Instagram influencer posts had breached the code in targeting adults under 25.

The offending Furphy beer instagram post

Last year, Asahi-owned Vodka Cruiser fell foul of the code for an instagram page promoting its drinks to younger women. The complainant in all the cases has been Cancer Council Victoria.

In the latest cases, the beer brands were found to have breached part 3 of the code which prohibits depicting individuals under 25 years in the ads.

The Furphy ad was posted by Instagrammer Mitch Cox in a $2,000 plus costs campaign booked by UM and influencer agency, The Adventure Handbook.

Fellow Lion brand XXXX booked a campaign for its Summer Bright Lager through UM worth $19,500 plus products which was placed Surfing Australia and directly with Instagrammers. That campaign saw nine influencers post on Instagram.

In the other complaint, independent brewer Wilde hired Mitch Cox for an influencer campaign which also featured Cleo Codrington. It appeared both Cox and Codrington, who posts under the name @cleocohen, were 24 at the time of the campaign.

Wilde Beer’s owners, Tribe Brewing, responded to the complaint saying the campaign had been run by the previous owners of the brand, Koala Beer and it had scant information on the details. The company said in its response: “Moving forward we will put in place a tighter control of images posted and ensure anyone in engaged in the brand will be over the age of 25.”

In the Furphy case, Lion stated it had obtained releases from Cox stating he and his companions on the project were all aged over 25 before approving UM and Adventure Handbook’s choice of talent.

The XXXX campaign was more complex with a mix of direct and indirectly engaged influencers with Surfing Australia representing pro-surfers Mitch Crews and Soli Bailey.

Instagram influencer Jack Entwisle was engaged through UM while Elise Halina, Josh Kilner, Jaxon Foale, Cleo Codrington, and the Brisbane Girls Abroad account were part of an unpaid contra arrangement where Lion exchanged product for content featuring on Lion-owned social channels.

Lion stated in its response to the panel that Codrington had answered untruthfully when asked if she was over 25.

The New Zealand owned brewer said in response to all the complaints it had revised its influencer policy and in future will require all influencers engaged directly or by agencies to provide full identity documentation prior to entering into any agreement for their brands.

A spokesperson for Lion told Mumbrella: “As a responsible marketer, Lion has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to upholding both the letter and spirits of both the ABAC and AANA Codes.

“We maintain strict internal and external processes to help ensure this compliance. We regret that on this occasion due to a process failure, we have breached the ABAC Code. All posts have been removed.”

UM declined to comment on the rulings while Wilde, The Adventure Handbook and Surfing Australia had not responded by the time of publication.

In each case it appears the influencers did not use Instagram age restriction controls to restrict access to under age users.

The Cancer Council Victoria’s alcohol legal policy adviser Sarah Jackson called for a ban on using influencers marketing alcohol to young people and children, saying the practice was irresponsible.

“Alcohol brands are eager to market their unhealthy products, which are known to increase the risk of cancer, to young people and will go to great lengths to develop positive brand relationships from an early age,” Jackson said.

“Today’s decision shows that these alcohol brands have been flouting their own rules by engaging social media influencers aged under 25 to promote alcoholic beverages on the influencers’ own social media accounts. They know these influencers have huge followings and that young people are impressionable to them.

““By now, influential endorsements for alcoholic products are likely to have appeared in the social media feeds of thousands of kids.

“We need to stop alcohol brands from using young social media influencers as a way to reach young people and endorse their alcoholic beverages altogether. The only effective way to do this is through Government regulation.”

An ABAC spokesperson told Mumbrella: “Social media influencers are a relatively new medium for advertising with only a handful of complaints to date.

“ABAC has responded to complaints about this advertising medium by undertaking a review of its digital best practice and has recently implemented clear guidance for alcohol marketers on the use of social media influencers in alcohol marketing. This guidance and also the ABAC Code includes a set of requirements, including to utilise available age restriction controls to prevent posts in which influencers promote alcohol from reaching under 18s.

“Brands and Agencies involved in the promotion of alcohol products need to ensure that all talent is aged at least 25 years of age and that they utilise age restriction controls available to restrict the audience to adults. In one of these cases an influencer misrepresented their age so age verification is required.”


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