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ASA bans VK Facebook ad for promoting ‘unwise drinking’

The UK’s advertising watchdog has banned a Facebook advertisement by ready-to-drink beverage brand VK, upholding a complaint that it was “socially irresponsible”.

The ASA has banned a Facebook advertisement by alcoholic beverage brand VK

Dated 8 March 2017, the image featured a group of young people dancing during a typical club scene, several with their heads tilted back, drinking from bottles of VK. The post was captioned: “Here’s a #TipTuesday for ya… VK is always better with your squad” followed by two ‘stick-out tongue’ emojis.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld the complaint, which stated that the image promoted unwise drinking styles and was in breach of the CAP Code because it featured people drinking alcohol who appeared to be under 25 years old.

VK owner Global Brands Ltd argued that the alcoholic drink is predominantly consumed by students and as such their target audience is aged between 18 and 25 years. The use of emojis, they said, is a reflection of how their audience interact, and provided evidence to show that 92% of online consumers used emojis when interacting online.

The company added that the image was taken in an ID controlled nightclub, and they were therefore confident that the image did not feature anyone under the legal drinking age. However the ASA ruled that this did not guarantee that people under 25 were not featured in the image, adding that several people who were the focus of the image appeared to be under this age.

Additionally, Global Brands said the post was user-generated, and argued that the bottles visible in the image were more than half full and so did not promote excessive drinking. The ASA, however, noted that six people in the image were drinking from bottles “with their heads tilted far back”, associated with the culture of “downing drinks”.

The person at the forefront of the image appeared to be drinking from an empty bottle, the ASA added, which suggested that members of the ‘squad’ were “at different stages of downing their drinks”.

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