Diageo sceptical on 'draconian' alcohol ad plans

12 January 2010

LONDON: Diageo, owner of drinks brands including Smirnoff and Guinness, and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have criticised the "divisive approach" of a UK MPs' report, which recommended tougher rules on alcohol marketing and pricing last week.

Simon Litherland, managing director of Diageo GB, said the plans were "draconian", did not have a "credible evidence base" and were likely to have "serious repercussions" for the media and advertising industries.

Proposals contained in the Health Select Committee report include restrictions on cinema ads for films not classified under the 18 certificate and a ban on drinks brands sponsoring a sporting event, if one in ten or more of its viewers are children.

The MPs also said alcohol duty should be increased and called for a minimum price of 50p per alcohol unit to be imposed by vendors.

Litherland claimed that, if these recommendations are adopted, the price of Bell's whisky could increase by around 100% to reach £23 per bottle.

Drinks makers favour a system of self-regulation as an alternative to government intervention.

Firms have been active in helping to tackle alcohol-related social issues such as binge drinking, through initiatives such as the government-backed, £100m, five-year Campaign for Smarter Drinking plan launched last July.

Litherland said the MPs' report represented "yet another attempt by aggressive sections of the health lobby to hijack alcohol policy-making".

He added: "It seeks to marginalise the role of industry in helping to tackle the problem of alcohol misuse."

In a statement, the ASA commented: "The UK's advertising regulatory regime for alcohol is one of the strictest in the world.

"The ASA regularly upholds complaints against major companies, demonstrating that the mandatory Codes are strictly applied."

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff