Alcohol advertising hunters set sights on beer

Beer advertising. The Sip Beer. WA Beer News.

Big Beer might be small fry. A form of Big Brother is watching you so it can dictate your drinking attitudes through mind control.

Indeed, the self-appointed fun police are trying to deny you the right to see your favourite brews in public.

It sounds a bit fascist.

The Alcohol Advertising Review Board hunts brewers, beer stockists and other beverage makers who, heaven forbid, might display images of their products in ways the community nannies believe is inappropriate. And this is done according to the AARB’s own standards.

In five years the board has dealt with almost 700 “complaints” about alcohol advertising, with the overwhelming majority of the protests being upheld.

Some of WA’s most popular craft breweries have been under investigation. So, too, have the big guys, from Coopers to Asahi and CUB.

So who gave the AARB such power? Themselves. To be accurate the board doesn’t have any authority, albeit it is possible the group claims a moral one.

It has no official or legal power. All it can do is publicly name and shame alcohol advertisers for not living up to the board’s code.

The AARB claims it is “an independent alcohol advertising complaint review service to help protect the community from inappropriate alcohol advertising and encourage effective regulation of alcohol advertising”.

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The body is an initiative of the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and Cancer Council WA. The AARB operates with support from health organisations around Australia.

But remember, it has no teeth. It can only “punish” beer advertisers who cross its code by putting up their case on a website.

Complainants can make anonymous statements to the AARB, with a panel determining whether the brewery has complied with the board’s expectations.

Now the beer industry needs a mature and responsible approach to the way its products are displayed in the public eye. And for the vast majority of occasions beer sellers operate within expectations.

However, put your brews on a public building billboard and the AARB will come knocking on the beer maker’s door with a wet lettuce leaf.

Take Asahi. They were pinged in July because their advertisement was on a bus stop.

AARB advertising on website.

“The Panel determined: 1. The advertisement contravened section (1)(i) of the Placement Code, on the basis that the advertisement was placed in a shopping centre, a place where young people are likely to be exposed,” the AARB reported.

Maybe the AARB, whose own website ad is above, has a point although kids can be exposed to alcohol by opening the fridge at home.

But one of the doozies from the AARM involved WA’s Feral.

In May the AARB upheld a complaint that its Fantapants Imperial Red India Pale Ale had “Beer packaging that features the word 'Fanta' and has a 'Captain Underpants' style illustration that is clearly meant to appeal to kids. A beer that uses soft drink brand name and is presented in a way that could appeal and be confusing for minors.”

Now The Sip has taken a long look at the Fantapants bottle and also a squizz at the Captain Underpants cartoon book character. It got the beer as an over-18 customer at a craft beer shop.

We think the complaint is a very low bow.

Perth’s Frisk Small Bar copped a letter over a Facebook post in which it cheekily claimed “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”.