Scottish Gin Society falls foul of advertising regulators

By James Beeson

- Last updated on GMT

Breach of standards: Facebook posts, which have since been deleted, were ruled to encourage excessive drinking
Breach of standards: Facebook posts, which have since been deleted, were ruled to encourage excessive drinking
A gin appreciation society has been warned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over a series of posts that appeared on its Facebook site.

The complaints, made by Aberdeenshire Alcohol & Drug Partnership, challenged whether The Scottish Gin Society’s “light-hearted” Facebook posts, which appeared in December 2017 and January 2018, encouraged excessive drinking and implied alcohol could lead to sexual success.

ASA ruled to uphold the complaints over the posts. The Scottish Gin Society, however, called the rulling "the most po-faced, fun-free, nanny-state judgment imaginable", and jokingly nominated the ASA for a 'Humour Bypass Award'.

The posts, which have since been deleted, included one with an image alongside the text “A banana has 150 calories a G&T has 110 calories – case closed” and captioned “We’re all about making healthy choices”.

Another post featured an image with the text “Healthy eating and exercise make you look better naked. So does gin. Your choice”. The post was captioned “In case you’re feeling a bit bloated after the festivities, you have choices!”.

Remit debate

Two other posts were found to have contravened rules covering nutrition and health claims made on foods, while a further four posts were found to have implied alcohol had therapeutic qualities and could enhance physical and mental capabilities.

ASA acknowledged the captions had been "presented in a light-hearted tone" but "still implied that gin could help people overcome emotional problems, and treat depression and pain, and that the ads therefore suggested that gin had therapeutic qualities and could help to treat health conditions".

The Scottish Gin Society said that it did not consider that the Facebook posts were advertisements. It argued that they did not fall within the remit of ASA because there was no product or service to purchase and it did not offer products or receive income from the sale of third-party products.

However, ASA considered that the Facebook posts were within its remit because they were directly connected to the promotion of The Scottish Gin Society’s membership service and the intention to sell gin.

It welcomed the decision to remove the posts, and warned The Scottish Gin Society to ensure that, in future adverts, it did not encourage the excessive consumption of alcohol, not to make comparative nutrition claims or health claims in relation to alcohol, and not to imply that alcohol had therapeutic qualities or suggest that it could enhance physical capabilities.

“We also told them not to imply that alcohol could enhance attractiveness or lead to sexual success,” ASA added.

Reposts of funny memes

A spokesman for The Scottish Gin Society said: "ASA freely admits in its judgment that these posts were light-hearted and humorous and they aren't even adverts – nor did we write them.

"They were re-posts of funny memes to members by a not-for-profit organisation so shouldn't fall under the ASA's remit."

In a later statement, the society added: "We exist to promote and support the thriving Scottish gin industry and the public who love it.

"While we have a light-hearted and fun personality, we do not think gin has magical or medical qualities, nor would we ever condone irresponsible or unhealthy consumption. It was never our intention to upset or offend anyone."

The Scottish Gin Society was founded in 2015 by Glasgow businessman Stephen White.

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