Rogue alcohol ad watchdog reckons 42 out of 44 advertisers are guilty

The self-appointed “Alcohol Advertising Review Board” set up by anti-alcohol campaigners in competition to the Advertising Standards Board has published its first findings.

The AARB’s first batch of findings dismissed just two out of 44 cases it looked at – upholding the other 42 in full or in part.

The volume of anti-industry determinations is in marked contrast to the ASB, which tends to uphold just three or four complaints a month across the whole advertising industry.

The AARB is operated by the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and Cancer Council WA. At first glance its website appears to make it an official industry body. In March, the ASB labeled it a “self-appointed activist ad review board with zero authority”.

The AARB claims that its determinations are based on the ad industry’s own codes. The organisation’s chair Prof Fiona Stanley claimed in a press release:

“This shows a deeply disturbing range of alcohol advertising and promotion that simply should not be permitted”.

“What reason can there be to expose young people and children to the association of alcohol with their sporting heroes or with behaviours such as driving fast cars and surfing, to promote products in ways that must appeal to young people, and to promote alcohol on university campuses?

It cannot be responsible to advertise spirits in association with music festivals attended by young people, or to link alcohol with images of women in lingerie captioned ‘Wood U?’.  It is time to nameand shame the companies that advertise alcohol irresponsibly and particularly to challenge them to promote their products in ways that do not appeal to young people”.

“In an Olympic week, the Gold medal for tasteless or inappropriate alcohol promotion goes to the Carlton Draught AFL sponsorship.  The Silver medal goes to the Jim Beam on Campus promotion which clearly targets young people and is associated with Facebook images that are utterly inappropriate, and the Bronze medal goes to Skinnygirl Cocktails which must be of appeal to young women.”

1.30pm update: Scott McClellan, CEO of the Australian Association of National Advertisers issued a statement saying:

“This report has zero credibility or standing. The authors set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner. The AARB said from the outset they want to tear down the self-regulatory advertising system, they then used their own networks and fellow travellers to generate anonymous complaints and then themselves adjudicated on the same complaints; there was no community consultation and no attempt to adjudicate according to community standards.

“Furthermore, they created the false impression that the AARB provided the public with an alternative complaints resolution mechanism when in fact it could not.”


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