The ASA upheld complaints against the Scottish Gin Society (SGS) for using Facebook posts to encourage irresponsible drinking, make misleading comparative nutrition claims and imply alcohol had therapeutic properties and was linked to sexual success.
The SGS ran ten Facebook posts promoting gin between December 2017 and January 2018. One example, dated 4 January 2017, featured an image of a glass of gin and tonic accompanied by the text: “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, dated 14 November 2017 and captioned “The medicinal qualities of gin are never-ending it seems … All the more reason to make sure you’re stocked up!”, included embedded text and an image from an editorial post which featured the text: “You’ll never guess what some people use to help with period pain … A gin and tonic may be able to settle nerve disturbances and period cramps when nothing else can.”
Another post, dated 17 November 2017, featured an image 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.” The image featured The Scottish Gin Society’s logo and was captioned: “We feel one of these occasions coming on soon – don’t you?” and featured a smiley face emoji.
A post, dated 27 December 2017, featured an image of a glass of gin and tonic accompanied by the text: “Healthy eating and exercise make you look better naked. So does gin. Your choice”. The image featured The Scottish Gin Society’s logo and was captioned “In case you’re feeling a bit bloated after the festivities, you have choices!”.
Aberdeenshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership argued that some posts were irresponsible because they encouraged excessive drinking, while some carried comparative nutrition claims. In addition, it claimed other posts implied that alcohol had therapeutic qualities and could enhance physical and mental capabilities; and others linked it to sexual success.
The ASA upheld all points, commenting on the posts comparing the calorie content of gin favourably with that of bananas: “The ad therefore made a ‘reduced energy’ comparative nutrition claim. 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.”
Separately, the ASA upheld a complaint about Vivid Water in a Box’s wording on website waterinabox.co.uk, seen in February 2018, promoting recyclable carton packaged water. The ad featured the sub-heading: “QUENCH YOUR THIRST RESPONSIBLY”. Underneath that was further text that stated: “Sadly, plastic bottles are made from non-renewable resources and their greenhouse gas emissions are significantly higher than those of our boxes.”
Underneath that, was an infographic which featured the claim: “NO PET, NO HEALTH THREAT FROM LEACHING.” Further text stated “Our Box does not contain PET, so there is no health threat from leaching.”
The ad also featured a second infographic of an image of a truck with the text: “1 MILLION BOXES ON 1 TRUCK COMPARED TO 58 TRUCKS NEEDED TO TRANSPORT 1 MILLION PLASTIC BOTTLES.”
The Natural Hydration Council challenged whether the claims were misleading and could be substantiated.
Vivid Water referenced a newspaper article covering a US study suggesting that PET found in plastic packaging leached plastic toxins into the water, as well as an email from the carton manufacturer to substantiate its claims.
Similarly, Vivid Water pointed to an email from a trade body representing the carton industry to support its logistics claim.
However, the ASA regarded this as insufficient evidence and so branded both claims ‘misleading’.