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Last Updated: Monday, 15 March, 2004, 18:19 GMT
'Creative adverts' selling drinks
Cocktails being poured from a shaker
The charity says codes on alcohol marketing need tightening
Alcohol firms are using "creative advertising" to flout voluntary codes of conduct in the drinks industry, the charity Alcohol Concern said.

The codes prevent firms from linking alcohol consumption to "sexual and social success" and ban the promotion of binge drinking.

Geethika Jayatilaka, from the charity, said advertisers were not sticking to the "spirit" of the codes.

She spoke after the government released its Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy.

Ms Jayatilaka told BBC News Online: "We need to throw the gauntlet down and say it's not just about how not to promote binge drinking, it's about how you actively discourage it. "

She said a recommended review of the industry's voluntary codes of practice on advertising provided an opportunity to "tighten loopholes".

A lot of the time it's the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the code that's followed
Geethika Jayatilaka
Alcohol Concern

The government says some 37 existing codes of conduct prohibit the promotion of irresponsible consumption of alcohol.

The codes also ban advertisements which appeal to young people or link alcohol to "sexual and social success".

For example, in 2002 Alcohol Concern objected to a magazine supplement advertisement that showed a pint of bitter in a ribbed glass, saying it implied the product could enhance sexual performance.

The advertisement was headlined "Ribbed for extra satisfaction" and stated "John Willie to his mates".

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld the complaint, saying it breached the British Code of Advertising.


Ms Jayatilaka said: "We know creative advertising will push the boundaries all the time."

She pointed to alcohol being sold in test-tube containers, which encouraged binge drinking because they could not be put down.

"A lot of the time it's the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the code that's followed.

Diageo alcopops
Diageo has a longstanding commitment to leadership in responsible drinking
Don Goulding
"It's a matter of making sure it's a tighter letter than it has been in the past."

Ms Jayatilaka said Alcohol Concern welcomed proposals for the compulsory inclusion of responsible drinking messages in advertising.

But she said the move was "unlikely to change the ingrained drinking culture".

Some alcohol advertisers were already including such messages voluntarily, she said, perhaps showing they knew they were "drinking in the last chance saloon".

Drinks company Diageo - whose brands include Guinness and Smirnoff - welcomed the government's new strategy, saying it was committed to promoting responsible drinking.

Don Goulding, Managing Director, Diageo Great Britain, said the firm realised alcohol could be consumed irresponsibly.

But he said: "Diageo has a longstanding commitment to leadership in responsible drinking which aims to achieve effective self-regulation and set world class standards in the responsible manufacture, promotion and marketing of our brands."

'Branded' advertisement

Mr Goulding said Diageo had its own marketing code, voluntarily introduced unit monitoring in 1998 and ran a branded responsible drinking television advertisement in 2003.

The commercial was based on a couple having dinner at a restaurant.

An old friend of the man's approaches and congratulates them on their engagement before reliving the husband-to-be's days as a ladies man while the woman looks increasingly shocked.

It finished with: "Knowing when to stop is a good thing."

Diageo is working on an industry code of practice to govern the sale of alcohol with the British Beer and Pub Association.

It also works with TACADE (Teachers Advisory Council on Alcohol and Drug Education) on initiatives aimed at informing teachers and children about alcohol consumption.


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