Irresponsible 'barrow of booze' ad encourages excessive drinking says ASA

By Georgina Townshend contact

- Last updated on GMT

Irresponsible advertising: the ASA says 185 Watling Street pub's advert encouraged excessive drinking
Irresponsible advertising: the ASA says 185 Watling Street pub's advert encouraged excessive drinking
A pub that advertised a 'barrow of booze', which included two boxes of wine, 20 bottles of Corona or Peroni, a bottle of Tanqueray gin, a bottle of Ketel One Vodka and a bottle of Tequila and mixers, has been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for "encouraging excessive drinking".

The advert appeared on the website of Epic Pubs' 185 Watling Street site, Towcester, Northamptonshire, in September 2017, and featured in a Christmas menu brochure.

The 'barrow of booze' was priced at £20 per person, for a minimum group of 15 people.

The ASA challenged, then later concluded, that the ad was irresponsible and breached the authority's code on the grounds that the 'barrow of booze' offer was likely to encourage excessive drinking.

Suit all tastes

According to the ASA, Epic Pub Company explained that the drinks package was a pre-order only deal and was designed specifically for large parties consisting of a minimum of 15 guests, many of whom were booking for their Christmas parties.

The drinks package was only available to parties who were booking a meal and was only offered in their supervised private dining rooms, it said.

The package was allegedly designed to provide large groups with a "wide selection of drinks to suit all tastes at a great price", making their party planning simple for them. The bookings often spanned a period of time ranging from anything from three to five hours, and the package was therefore designed to cover drinks before, during and after dinner, Epic Pub Company continued.

Binge drinking

However, the ASA said: "The ASA noted that the offer was available for a group consisting of a minimum of 15 people.

"We calculated that the amount of alcohol listed in the offer as available for consumption, for a group of 15, was approximately 12 units per person.

"We noted that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) defined binge drinking as having over eight units in a single session for men and over six units in a single session for women.

"We also considered that, irrespective of the number of units of alcohol offered in the promotion, readers would understand that the drinks listed consisted of a very large amount of alcohol, even for a group of 15 people. We considered that impression was further emphasised by the offer’s name 'barrow of booze'."

The ASA warned the pub company that the ad must not appear again in its current form.

"We told Epic Pub Company Ltd to ensure that, in future, their advertising was not likely to lead people to adopt styles that were unwise, for example, by encouraging excessive drinking," it said.

Breached the code

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 8.5 that states promotions must not be socially undesirable to the audience addressed by encouraging excessive consumption or irresponsible use, and 18.1 which states marketing communications must be socially responsible and must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise. 

Another issue was investigated, but informally resolved after the advertiser agreed to amend or withdraw its advertising.

In response to the ruling, Epic Pub managing director, Andrew Coath, said: "We were of course naturally disappointed to have received a complaint as we take both the safety of our customers and our responsibility to promote sensible drinking extremely seriously.  

"This was not an offer to all customers, and was only available to larger groups who had pre-booked Christmas events.

"As soon as the complaint was bought to our attention, we took immediate action, taking on board the recommendations and removing the offer from sale. "

Legal tips

Advice from Nick Arron, partner at legal experts Poppleston Allen, said: "Operators should think carefully when considering a drinks promotions.

"Not only does it need to meet the requirements of the CAP code but also the mandatory licensing condition for responsible drinks promotions. If there is a significant risk to the licensing objectives, then it will be deemed irresponsible.

"Operators should take into account factors such as how big is the discount, how long is the promotion on for, will the promotion significantly increase numbers of customers, the profile of the customer base, will it encourage more alcohol being consumed in a shorter time, the units of alcohol per customer and the ABV of alcohol in the promotion, etc.

"It is a subjective test that should always be considered with caution, as reflected in this ASA ruling."

Related topics: Licensing law

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