ABAC Announces Updates Strengthening the Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code

Sharmila Pamamull

Senior Counsel

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ABAC code change

Earlier this year, the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) announced they would be implementing a new Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code regarding how alcohol and alcohol alternatives can be marketed in Australia.

The new code is available to view here.

Renowned as one of the "toughest" codes globally, ABAC has implemented key changes to fortify the protection of children from alcohol advertising and adapt to evolving marketing practices on digital and social media platforms.

These pivotal changes come after an extensive 15-month public consultation process, during which valuable insights were gathered from government bodies, health organisations, industry experts, and community opinion research. The aim was to ensure that the regulations align seamlessly with prevailing expectations for the responsible advertising of alcohol products.

When does the new Code take effect?

ABAC will commence transition to the new Code between 1 August 2023 and 1 January 2024:

  • Complaints received between 1 August 2023 and 31 December 2023 will be considered against the new Code UNLESS the complaint relates to Part 4(c) of the revised Code OR relates to a marketing communication that has been continuously in market from 31 July 2023, with complaints meeting either of those two criteria being considered against the previous Code.

  • All complaints received on or after 1 January 2024 will be considered against the new Code regardless of when the marketing communication entered the market

Key Highlights of the updated ABAC Scheme:

  1. Elevating Percentage of Adult Viewers Required from 75% to 80%: The ABAC scheme has raised the bar for responsible alcohol advertising by increasing the required percentage of adult viewers around television programs from 75% to 80%. This progressive move establishes Australia's code as a global best practice in safeguarding the interests of our younger audience.

  2. Guarding Against Appeal to Minors: In a proactive step, the definition of "strong and evident appeal to minors" has been broadened. This expansion solidifies the commitment to preventing alcohol advertisements from inadvertently attracting young individuals.

  3. Prohibits portrayal of excessive alcohol as amusing & not permitted to negatively portray abstinence/alcohol refusal: The ABAC scheme now provides even clearer guidelines on responsible and moderate alcohol consumption. It explicitly prohibits any portrayal of excessive alcohol consumption as amusing and discourages negative portrayals of abstinence or alcohol refusal.

  4. Ensuring opt outs are honoured: The Code expands restrictions on the direct marketing of alcohol by toughening requirements to offer opt outs from this marketing and ensure these are honoured.

  5. Refrain from suggesting alcohol offers therapeutic, health, or mental benefits, is needed to relax or can alleviate problems/adversities: Addressing concerns arising during the COVID-19 pandemic, the revised code unequivocally prohibits suggesting that alcohol consumption offers therapeutic, health, or mental health benefits; or is needed to relax. This change includes refraining from implying that alcohol can alleviate problems or adversities.

  6. Extends Coverage to Alcohol Alternatives e.g. zero alcohol beer: Acknowledging the global growth in the "alcohol alternatives" market, the ABAC scheme has extended its reach to encompass the marketing of products with an alcohol by volume (ABV) of less than 0.5%. This proactive measure aims to ensure that alcohol alternative marketing does not inadvertently promote inappropriate alcohol use.

  7. No Use of Influencers under the age of 25: The code was also updated to specifically not allow advertising of alcohol products by influencers who are under the age of 25, which addresses the expanding market of advertising on social media.

These changes exemplify a collaborative effort between stakeholders and industry experts to foster responsible alcohol advertising practices in our community. As your trusted partner, we remain committed to upholding the highest standards of ethical marketing and promoting the well-being of all.

For more detailed information about the ABAC scheme's recent enhancements, please feel free to reach out Plexus' team of promotional law experts at [email protected]

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