Watchdog bans ‘light-hearted’ Scottish Gin Society adverts

The Scottish Gin Society insisted the messages were simply reposts of 'funny memes' and were not adverts
The Scottish Gin Society insisted the messages were simply reposts of 'funny memes' and were not adverts
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Online posts that carried “light-hearted” comments about gin have been banned by a watchdog after it ruled they encouraged excessive drinking and made misleading nutrition claims.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint about ten postings on Facebook from The Scottish Gin Society seen in December 2017 and January this year.

The society insisted the messages were simply reposts of “funny memes”, and were not adverts. It described the ruling as “po-faced” and “fun-free”.

One of the social media posts, described as ads by the ASA, featured an image of a glass of gin and tonic and read: “This gin and tonic has 91 calories. A banana has 105 calories. My doctor told me to make the healthy choice. I love my doctor.”

The caption stated: “Kick off your New Year diet with some good advice.”

Another example was captioned: “The medicinal qualities of gin are never-ending it seems... All the more reason to make sure you’re stocked up!”

It included embedded text and an image from an editorial post about period pain.

A further post featured a picture of a glass of gin and tonic accompanied by the text: “I only drink gin on two occasions: When I’m thirsty and when I’m not thirsty.”

One post, dated 1 January, featured an image of the drink accompanied by the text: “Shut up liver, you’re fine! Gin?”

Other posts spoke about “making healthy choices”, referenced to an article about speeding up the metabolism, or suggested a man named “Bill” was smart for drinking gin instead of abstaining from alcohol during “dry January”.

Aberdeenshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership challenged whether the messages were irresponsible because they encouraged excessive drinking, implied alcohol had therapeutic qualities and questioned whether comparative nutrition claims complied with the relevant code.

It also claimed two posts, including one that suggested gin could “make you look better naked”, linked alcohol to sexual success.

For three of the postings, it ruled: “Although those viewing the posts would understand the intention behind them as light-hearted and humorous, we nonetheless considered they had the effect of condoning and encouraging excessive drinking.”

On the apparent comparison between the calorific content of a gin and tonic and a banana, the ASA said: “We considered that alcoholic-mixed drinks and fruits did not fall into the same food category and therefore concluded that the comparative nutrition claim breached the code.”

For four other posts, the ASA acknowledged the captions were presented in a light-hearted tone, but concluded the code had been breached because the ads “suggested that gin had therapeutic qualities and could help to treat health conditions”.

It further found two posts it considered “had the effect of suggesting alcohol could enhance attractiveness and therefore lead to sexual success” had breached the code.

A spokesman for the Scottish Gin Society responded: “This is the most po-faced, fun-free, nanny-state judgement imaginable.

“The ASA freely admits in its judgement that these posts were ‘light-hearted and humorous’ and they aren’t even adverts, nor did we write them - they are reposts of funny memes to members by a not-for-profit organisation, so shouldn’t fall under the ASA’s remit.”