Between sips: An odd juxtaposition

By: | Published: February 15, 2015 12:05 AM

Alcohol advertising is allowed solely within the premises where it is sold, constricting the target audience. If only advertisers could come up with less ridiculous ways to get the point across, the whole thing would seem less laughable.

Recently while watching the Australian Open finals, I couldn’t help but tweet (modern-speak for thinking out aloud) that its two big promoters were Jacob’s Creek, one of the most popular wineries in Australia, and Kia Motors, a Korean car company brand. I couldn’t escape the irony that this international sports contest, with staggering worldwide viewership figures, was being promoted by an odd juxtaposition of drinking and driving!

It was precisely concerns like these that had led France to draft what came to be known as Evin’s Law, or Loi Evin if you prefer, in 1991. The ruling was concerned with the control of tobacco and alcoholism. For long, France had managed to show preferential treatment to its own spirits and ferments, while ostracising those from neighbouring European states. Scotland objected—imagine Sean Connery saying, “Nobody puts Scotch in the corner” with his slur—and, subsequently, won. France was asked to revise its laws and make them more equal. And those snooty French acquiesced! Well, they took 11 years to come up with it, but that’s not the point.

While the law was mostly devised to restrict the proliferation and discourage the use of tobacco, alcohol, too, was somewhat covered as one of the elements to be reigned in. Following Evin’s Law, eponymously named after the health minister who proposed it, alcohol advertisements couldn’t run on popular live media (TV and cinema), were highly controlled for dissipation through other (print) channels and in any instance of alcohol being advertised, needed to carry a disclaimer announcing the ill effects of consuming alcohol (‘if not in moderation’ was probably appended later). Sporting events can’t be promoted by an alcohol brand in France and that is one reason why the centre court of Rolland Garros looks so parched.

This brings us to Australia, where the law for this is based on the principle of self-regulation, which is governed by the tenets of responsibility and a moral code of conduct. However, that doesn’t include sporting events.

The international organisation, the Wine Institute, has set down some guidelines, which transcend borders and can be seen as a code for companies to follow. The guidelines focus on ensuring that advertising campaigns are directed at adults, promote moderation, don’t in any manner glorify inebriation or over-consumption, and don’t draw attention to ‘extra strength’ unless otherwise as required by the law. While wine may be shown as a part of life, it shouldn’t resonate the idea that it is essential to living a good life—they can’t valorise it in any manner as well. And no advertising can be directed at minors, so any reference that may appeal to them instantly can not be deployed.

And yet, all said, we have Homer Simpson singing songs of praise for Duff beer, Peter Griffin is a role model for drunken and irresponsible misbehaviour and events like Tour de France, Formula One and other grand prix races would be incomplete without the ceremonial popping of a bubbly! In short, even with all the laws, people manage to find a way through.

Long story short, the next time we see an advertisement in India for some rum-brand music CDs or golf accessories eerily sharing their name with a popular local whisky brand—and funniest yet, namesake water and soda bottles—we will know that the equivalent of Evin’s Law exists in India as well. Advertising is allowed solely within the premises where alcohol is sold, which rather constricts the target audience: the logic being that if someone is already standing inside a liquor shop, he is already there to buy, so it isn’t as much ‘promoting’ alcohol consumption, as it is brands jostling for consumer attention. But out of some 132 countries registered with the WHO, almost 72 have conditional permissions for alcohol advertising, so we are in the majority really. If only our ad gurus could come up with less ridiculous ways to get the point across, the whole thing would seem less laughable. In the meantime, allow for cognitive resonance to create connections and build brand loyalty in your subconscious, as alcohol remains a potential threat, even as more potentially addictive and harmful substances like coffee get away scot-free!

The writer is a sommelier

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