The Herald; 5th September 2018

Martin Williams

@MWilliamsHT Senior News Reporter

Ten Scottish Gin Society adverts have been banned by the regulator for linking alcohol with sexual success and for encouraging excessive drinking.

The Advertising Standards Authority said the action over Facebook posts by the organisation founded two years ago by Stephen White, co-owner of a number of Glasgow pubs including Maggie May’s and The Griffin, was also taken because of misleading nutritional claims.

But the Scottish Gin Society has hit back saying the ads were all light-hearted and that the regulator deserved a “humour bypass award”.

Two were found by the ASA to have linked gin with sexual activity, The first from December which featured the Scottish Gin Society logo said:

“Healthy eating and exercise make you look better naked. So does gin. Your choice”.

It went on:

“In case you’re feeling a bit bloated after the festivities, you have choices!”.

Another featured an image of an animal holding a cocktail with the text:

“Gin… helping otherwise smart girls embrace their inner skank since the 1600’s [sic]”.

The ASA said: “Although those viewing the posts would understand the intention behind them as light-hearted and humorous, we nonetheless considered they had the effect of suggesting alcohol could enhance atractiveness and therefore lead to sexual success.”

The regulator began an investigation into the Facebook posts following complaints by the Aberdeenshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership over ads seen in December 2017 and January 2018.

The ASA said: “We welcomed The Scottish Gin Society’s action to remove the posts. We told The Scottish Gin Society to ensure that in their future ads they 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.”

SGS: Social media posts were not adverts

But the Scottish Gin Society did not feel they could be penalised because they felt the social media posts were not adverts.

Four of the complained about ads “implied that alcohol had therapeutic qualities and could enhance physical and mental capabilities”.

One said:

“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 said:

“Drinking Gin Could Speed Up The Metabolism, So Pass Us The Bottle”.

A third said:

SHELBY COMPANY…GIN DISTILLED FOR THE ERADICATION OF SEEMINGLY INCURABLE SADNESS.”

The ASA said the claims, while again presented in a light-hearted tone “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”.

Three of the complained about ads had the effect of “condoning and encouraging excessive drinking”, the ASA said.

One that featured the Scottish Gin Society logo said:

“I only drink gin on two occasions: When I’m thirsty and when I’m not thirsty”.

It added: “We feel one of these occasions coming on soon – don’t you?” and featured a smiley face emoji.  

Another featured an image of a glass of gin and tonic accompanied by the text:

“Shut up liver, you’re fine! Gin?”.

A third featured an image of a stick cartoon and featured the text

“THIS IS BILL. BILL LIKES GIN. BILL HAS CHOSEN TO FOLLOW GINUARY, NOT DRY JANUARY. BILL KNOWS JANUARY IS A LONG MONTH. BILL IS SMART. BE LIKE BILL.”

A caption stated: “Dry January or Ginuary? We’ve made our choice already”.

Another two fell foul of the regulator for wrongly making comparisons with other products in nutritional claims. The first said:

“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”. A caption stated “Kick off your New Year Diet with some good advice …”

The second said:

“A banana has 150 calories a G&T has 110 calories Case closed.” The image featured The Scottish Gin Society’s logo and was captioned “We’re all about making healthy choices…”.

The Scottish Gin Society said that they did not consider that Facebook posts were advertisements and argued that they did not fall within the remit of the Committees of Advertising Practice code as there was no product or service to purchase and they did not offer products or receive income from the sale of third-party products. They explained that most of the content was from third-party posts, none of which was created by The Scottish Gin Society but confirmed they had been removed. A spokesman said: “This is the most po-faced, fun-free nanny state judgment imaginable. “We completely support responsible drinking but if this is justice, I am a Long Island Iced Tea.

“Gin is a huge and booming success story with exports worth around half a billion pounds. We have 500 people celebrating the Scottish Gin Awards later this month and will be nominating the ASA for the ‘humour bypass award’.”

The ASA said the posts did fall within the remit of the code because they were “directly connected to the promotion of The Scottish Gin Society’s membership service and the intention to sell gin, which was therefore directly connected to the supply of Scottish gin”.

Link to original article with illustrations  

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