4/05/2021·3 mins to read

The Alcohol Advertising Code has changed - Don’t be left high and dry

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has recently released a new Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code (Alcohol Code), which supplements the ASA’s Advertising Standards Code (ASA Code).

The Alcohol Code applies to all alcohol advertising and promotion in all media. However, it does not apply to advertisements and promotions that are solely and clearly aimed at educating people about alcohol related harm - these are solely governed by the ASA Code, which includes rules such as advertisements must not cause fear or distress without justification. The new Alcohol Code comprises principles outlining the standards expected in ads, rules explaining how the principles should be interpreted and applied, and guidelines providing examples and information about the rules for consumers.

Key takeaways

  • The Advertising Standards Authority has released a new Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code.
  • The Code extends the definition of alcohol, includes a new rule regarding timing and placement of advertisements, and alters who can appear in advertisements. 
  • The new code came into effect for new advertisements from 1 April 2021 and will take effect for all advertisements from 1 July 2021.

Key changes

The Alcohol Code took effect for new ads from 1 April 2021, and will take for all ads from 1 July 2021. The Alcohol Code introduces some new principles and rules for advertiser, notably:

Definition of Alcohol and Alcohol Advertising and Promotion

The definition of “alcohol” has been updated to include:

  • products containing less than 1.15% alcohol content if they are marketed as non-alcoholic variants of alcohol brands; and
  • products that resemble, by look and/or taste, any product that contains more than 1.15% alcohol content.

The new Alcohol Code also broadened the definition of “alcohol advertising and promotion” to encompass any message, including labelling and naming, the content of which is controlled directly or indirectly by the alcohol advertiser.

Timing and placement

The Alcohol Code has new guidelines for timing and placement of ads placed out of home, played on real-time television, and utilising influencers. The guidelines specify tools that must be used when advertisers are attempting to target adult audiences through these media. The tools include options such as date of birth entry, nominated platforms that restrict minor entry, and sites that select an adult audience. Where the tools cannot be used, recognised industry-standard audience composition data must be utilised to ensure that 80% or more of the expected average audience are adults. The previous saturation rule, which required broadcasters to avoid the impression that alcohol promotion is dominating the viewing or listening period when broadcasting alcohol advertisements, has also been extended to apply to ‘media’ rather than just television. Examples of how to avoid this saturation are now also outlined in the Alcohol Code.


The definition of who may be considered a hero/heroine of the young has been broadened to include ‘someone that is currently popular with minors.’ The Alcohol Code provides that alcohol advertisers may need to undertake consumer research to determine who/what is ‘currently popular’. There is no further clarity around this phrase and advertisers should treat it with caution.

Other content related changes to the Alcohol Code include:

  1. minors and women who are visibly pregnant or seen breastfeeding must not appear in ads;
  2. adults in ads must be 25 years or over, unless they fall into one of three new exceptions;
    • they are not a paid model or actor and are real people in real situations;
    • they are employed by the alcohol advertiser or its agent for the purposes of serving, sampling or merchandising alcohol; or
    • they are part of a crowd scene from an R18+ event with behaviour and appearance appropriate for people of that age and older.
  3. influencers must be at least 25 years of age and appear to be at least 25 years of age. Their behaviour and appearance must also be clearly appropriate for people of that age or older in order to advertise alcohol on their social media.


Finally, a new sponsorship principle and accompanying rules have been created to deal with the large number of submitters opposed to alcohol sponsorship. The new principle emphasises ads must target adults and primarily promote the sponsored party. New guidelines have been introduced that specifically set out what alcohol sponsorship ads must and must not do to provide greater clarification. For example, they must focus on the clear association between the alcohol advertiser and the sponsored party and must not show alcohol or the product label or packaging.

What does this mean for you?

Next steps will include ensuring existing and new ads are compliant. For existing ads, this this may mean removing ads from circulation or engaging in editing before 1 July 2021 to ensure compliance. As the Alcohol Code took effect from 1 April 2021 for all new ads, immediate post-production editing may be needed, and advertisers should keep this in mind when coming up with new ads.

Advertisers should also ensure that any influencers working with alcohol brands are not below the age of 25 in fact, or in appearance/behaviour, and reject any work with influencers until they reach 25 years of age. Any advertisers working with influencers over the age of 25 must use ads that are clearly appropriate for people of that age or older in terms of the influencer’s appearance and behaviour. There is no guidance given by the ASA regarding “appearance or behaviour”. As the Alcohol Code was introduced to target an issue of concern, the ASA is likely to take a firm stance.

You can access the Alcohol Code here.

Get in touch

If you have any further questions about the Alcohol Code or if you want advice on advertisements, either on alcohol or in general, please get in touch with our contacts.


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