In Finland, the 2015 ban on alcohol marketing, as well as the recently introduced restrictions on social media marketing, have become a point of debate. The debate was sparked over an incident surrounding blog posts about Beer Expo Finland 2014, which had to drop the word whisky.
Over the last weeks Valvira, the National Authority for Health and Welfare, has been flooded with reactions on what has been dubbed on social media as ‘viskigate’ and the upcoming ban on alcohol marketing. “We’ve received about 300 messages, some of which are level-headed and some of which are in bad taste,” Valvira alcohol administration chief Kari Kunnas told Yle.fi. “Some humourists have asked whether the name of the Finlandia House in Helsinki will become illegal as it is also the name of a brand of vodka, or whether streets all over Finland called Karjalankatu will be banned because it includes the name of the beer brand Karjala.”
Kunnas explained that Valvira is not the right place to send in feedback, as the law was passed by Parliament, not the supervisory authority.
Next year, many changes to the regulations on alcohol advertisement will be introduced. The change that has received most backlash is the one banning outdoor advertisement of alcoholic products.
Kunnas says that the new regulations are partly open to interpretation. The provision on outdoor marketing states that licensed establishments are still allowed to advertise prices and product availability in some form.
”As the case may be, if a brand name used in the name of a restaurant advertises prices or availability, it is allowed,” he says. “If this is not the case in legal terms, some establishments may need to change their names.”
Viskigate is the trending twitter hashtag dedicated to the news about bloggers being asked to delete the ‘viski’ in their blog posts about a beer and whisky fair due to take place in Helsinki in October.
According to Yle.fi, event organiser Mikki Nyman was asked to remove the word “whisky” from the expo’s logo and its official name. AVI, Southern Finland’s Regional Administrative Agency, also demanded that the fair’s website would not show up in search engine results for the word “whisky”. In accordance with this the organizer asked bloggers to remove the word whisky from their blog posts, because: advertising of spirits is banned in Finland, and a blog describing the whiskies on offer at the Beer and Whisky expo, if it showed up in search engine results for “viski”, would constitute advertising.”
This line of reasoning is in direct contrast to the advice given by Valvira to Mr Nyman, which was that that people could write about the products on offer at the fair so long as they didn’t give prices for the whiskies or receive payment for the writings.
The bloggers did comply with Nyman’s request, but raised questions about Avi’s actions—as private individuals without any official connection to the event, they could in theory force the withdrawal of the license, if they did not edit their blog postings and Avi followed through on its licensing conditions.