In a ruling that once again proves the ineffectiveness of the self-regulatory system, the Dutch Media Commissariat has said that Radio and TV spots for the alcohol free Amstel 0.0 beverage should be seen as advertising for an alcohol producer and as such should not have been allowed to be broadcast before 9PM according to the Media law of 2008.
Please take a look at the Amstel 0.0 commercial below:
The complaint was filed in May 2014 by EUCAM, the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing, which operates out of the Netherlands.
Alcohol Commercial or Not?
In our complaint to the Media Commissariat we argued that the spot which advertised the alcohol free product Amstel 0.0, was in fact also advertising the brand name ‘Amstel’ which predominantly produces alcoholic beverages. Our argumentation for this was based on the definition of advertising as described in Article 1 of the Media law as well as Article 1 of the Dutch Advertising Code.
Secondly, we argued that the content of the advertisement actually refers to the alcoholic beverages of the same brand. Near the end of the commercial the voiceover says that the “natural mix of Amstel beer and lemon juice” is now also available alcohol free.
We also referred to an earlier case from 2010, in which a TV spot for Bavaria 0.0% was classified as an alcohol commercial for referring too strongly to the alcoholic beverage of the same brand.
The Media Commissariat in its verdict explained that the Media law prohibits alcohol advertising on TV and radio between 6AM and 9PM, in order to protect children from alcohol marketing exposure. Because of a direct reference to the alcoholic beverage of the same brand, the spot works to appeal to alcoholic beverages and should according to the verdict, not have been broadcasted during the watershed timeslot.
Because of this, the Commissariat has contacted the media institutes that have wrongfully broadcasted the commercial during the daytime to discuss the compliance with the media law and explain how the commercial may have exposed children to alcohol advertising. It has also pointed out that breaches of the media law can result in penalties. The Commissariat has also updated the text about alcohol advertising in the frequently asked questions on their website to clear up any ambiguity.
Failing of Self-Regulation
The complaint to the Media Commissariat was filed at the same time as a complaint about the same advertisement to the Advertising Code Commission (Reclame Code Commissie), the self-regulatory body of the Dutch advertising industry. This complaint letter used largely the same arguments, but went into more details about the content of the commercial, in accordance with the more qualitative character of the Advertising Code.
The Advertising Code Commission rejected the complaint on all grounds. One of the arguments in the verdict of the Advertising Code Commission was that, while the sport commentators can be heard to think that the cyclist is drinking beer, this is nonetheless no alcohol commercial, because the comedic scenario of the commercial is so unrealistic, that it would be abundantly clear to the viewers that the characters in the commercial are not actually drinking beer.
Furthermore, the Commission’s verdict also states that because of the inclusion of the figure 0.0 throughout the commercial this commercial is clearly dedicated to an alcohol free product. The Commission however, overlooks what the Media Commissariat finds damning about this commercial: The clear and direct reference in the voiceover to the alcoholic beverage Amstel beer.
This once again shows the need for independent institutions to manage legally mandatory alcohol marketing regulations, instead of relying on self-regulation which is more concerned with their own vested interests then consumer protection. It also shows the problems of content restrictions in that the question of whether or not this commercial should be classified as an alcohol commercial leads to a considerable and unsatisfying discussion.