• Following its controversial launch in August, the packaging design of Hard Solo, the alcoholic version of the softdrink Solo, has been found to breach the ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code.
    Following its controversial launch in August, the packaging design of Hard Solo, the alcoholic version of the softdrink Solo, has been found to breach the ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code.
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The ABAC (Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code) Scheme released an updated set of code standards in 2023, which the organisation’s latest annual report found has improved guidance for industry on responsible digital marketing.

ABAC independent chair Tony Smith said, “After an extensive 15 month public consultation process and independent community opinion research, a new ABAC Code was launched in April 2023 and was fully implemented from 1 January 2024.

“The code review highlighted the importance of keeping across the complex and rapidly evolving digital marketing trends, and in December 2023 ABAC released a revised Best Practice Guide for Digital Marketing. The guide outlines the application of ABAC Code standards to digital marketing and also explores best practice to assist companies in the responsible implementation and management of their digital marketing.

“Importantly, during 2023 ABAC celebrated the significant milestone of 25 years of regulation of alcohol marketing in Australia. The data speaks for itself, and I highlight the 344 ads and packaging that were ordered out of market by the ABAC Adjudication Panel and the 4,742 marketing communications that were rejected by ABAC pre-vetters before they reached the market. These outcomes demonstrate that ABAC is an active and effective regulator of alcohol marketing in Australia, raising industry standards over that period.”

Panel chief adjudicator, Professor Michael Lavarch, commented on the transformation of the industry and the ABAC Scheme over the past 25 years, “In retrospect quite remarkably, almost universally alcohol companies have accepted the ABAC Code and participated in the public complaints process irrespective of their relationship with a sponsoring peak body. What’s more, these companies have accepted adverse panel decisions – sometimes at the very great expense of having to remove brand names and product packaging from the market.

“Equally, via a series of key decisions, the panel has in effect expanded the scope of the scheme over the years, as new issues arise, by applying its ‘spirit and intent’ philosophy of the policy purpose of alcohol marketing regulation. For instance, the decisions to capture the social media posts of influencers and to hold alcohol companies responsible to manage the posts of user generated comments on company sites. I am proud of the part the independent ABAC Adjudication Panel has played in the scheme’s transformation.”

In March, the ABAC called out several beverages for breaching the new revised code. This followed Carlton & United Breweries' Hard Solo being required to rebrand, as the name and packaging design was found to have strong appeal to minors.

The annual report can be accessed here.

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