From 'it's not the drinking, it's how we're drinking' to the 'ghost chips' legends, our collective love for the bottle has been referenced in advertising far too many times to count. Now a billboard for Radio Hauraki’s ‘Drive’ show that normalises drinking has fallen foul of the Advertising Standards Authority, but the same ad placed in the New Zealand Herald was deemed acceptable.
The Hauraki Amped adverts feature drivetime DJ Matt Heath alongside the text “my show starts at 4pm - long enough to get over any hangover.”
Back in May, the ASA complaints board upheld a complaint from R Williams, who claimed the advertisements implied the DJ was “amped on alcohol” and therefore breached advertising codes on social responsibility.
The board noted that the reference to “amped” was in association with the Hauraki brand and in this context did not allude to being drunk. But the reference to the hangover (which the Radio Network said supported the Hauraki Amped "rock’n roll lifestyle” and Heath's DJ persona) contributed to normalising and making light of excessive drinking.
A series of appeals was subsequently lodged by the Radio Network, which claimed such "edgy" humour fitted in with the network’s target market, 37-year-old blue-collar males, where “hangovers are already a familiar and ‘normal’ part of life" (another billboard featured a reference to Heath's Back of the Y days and the "C*nstables" segment).
"Humour based around drinking, while perhaps in poor taste to some segments of the community, is perfectly acceptable to others."
The network argued the majority of the public would understand the context of such an advertisement and could accept the humour without spurring people to drink heavily.
As a precedent, it cited promotional trailers for The Hangover and The Hangover 2 that highlight excessive drinking and a Burger King advert in which a burger menu was available "to help with your hangover" (at the time the ASA said hangovers were a social reality, and the advertisement was a reflection of that).
Williams disagreed, saying the billboard was placed in the gentrified suburb of Epsom in Auckland – hardly targeted at Hauraki's key market.
Williams cited both a Law Commission review that supported restricting or banning alcohol advertising and a survey that claimed 40 percent of 15-17 year-olds had seen alcohol advertising in the past three months to make the case that using humour in such commercials was not acceptable.
Ultimately, the ASA appeals board ruled the newspaper advertisement provided a more targeted audience, which mainly consisted of adults who would be capable of seeing the advertisement as a humorous jibe reflecting a social reality, rather than a promotion of excessive consumption of alcohol in New Zealand’s drinking culture. As a result, that placement was deemed acceptable.
However, it decided outdoor advertising had a potentially unlimited audience, including younger people, and that the light-hearted reflection of the possible consequences of a hangover in an advertisement to an untargeted audience did breach the threshold for a due sense of social responsibility.
This story originally appeared on idealog.co.nz