The slowly changing face of alcohol marketing

There may have been a few quiet drinks in the marcomms sector following this week’s Government announcement on alcohol law reform, which included advertising reform. But there was certainly no big party.

The Government has proposed changes to the promotion and advertising of alcohol, with legislation due to be introduced to Parliament this October. Those changes largely reflect “stage one” of the Law Commission’s recommended three-stage ‘makeover’ of alcohol advertising in New Zealand. The reason for the quiet celebratory drink is that the Government has decided not to commit to stages two and three at this stage.

Justice Minister Simon Power recommended four changes to Government in his Cabinet Paper. These recommendations widen the offence provisions around the promotion of alcohol under the Sale of Liquor Act 1986.

Under the proposed changes it will be an offence to:

  • Encourage the consumption of an excessive amount of alcohol
  • Promote or advertise alcohol in a manner which has special appeal to people under the age of 20
  • Promote or advertise alcohol, except in store or on premises, in a manner that leads people to believe the price is 25% or more below the price at which alcohol is usually sold
  • Promote alcohol as free
  • Offer any goods or services on the condition that alcohol is purchased.

Assuming those new offence provisions come into force early next year, you might want to think a bit harder about:

  • Alcohol brand sponsorship of a music festival which will appeal to those under 20
  • Advertising 18 packs of beer at 12 pack prices
  • Advertising a free drink on entry to a bar or event
  • Advertising a free bottle opener with each pack of beer sold.

The Minister has not dismissed the far reaching changes proposed by the Law Commission, he has just said he is not recommending them “for the time being”. What the Minister has said is that the research does not yet show a clear link between advertising and excessive consumption of alcohol warranting far reaching changes. The Commission, on the other hand, was swayed by recent research suggesting such a link exists.

This means that the potential for further regulation still hangs over the industry. Whether the Government decides to make further changes may depend on research, but it will also depend on behaviour. It will, for example, be interesting to see whether the Government’s position would harden if anyone refuses to abide by a decision of the Advertising Standards Authority’s new Liquor Promotions Complaints Board.

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