Anti-alcohol group Balance North East claim the decision to throw out complaints over its “Tumour” TV ad are “a real victory for the health community.”
The 40 second long clip, made with the backing of Cancer Research UK, was first broadcast in November 2013 and was almost immediately reported to the Advertising Standards Authority by Camra, the British Beer and Pub Association and the Society of Independent Brewers (Siba), who claim it was both “extremely unpleasant” and “potentially very misleading.”
But the watchdog today rejected those claims saying that the video, which sees a man’s beer develop a cancerous growth that he appears to drink, did not over-emphasise the risk of developing alcohol related cancers, or suggested viewers should significantly cut back their booze intake.
“The ad aimed to depict routine drinking, whereby a man consumed a bottle of beer as part of a typical every day task – cooking dinner for his children,” the ASA said. “Balance North East believed the ad conveyed the impression that the man featured consumed alcohol on a regular and routine basis, and that at no point did the ad state or imply that the man featured was only consuming one glass of beer on that particular occasion.
“Balance North East believed the ad was similar to the approach utilised by the NHS when promoting an awareness of the harms associated with smoking, in that one cigarette would be used to represent habitual usage. Similar to that approach, Balance North East intended the consumption of one drink to be interpreted as a proxy for routine drinking.”
“We considered that the overarching message of the ad was that the consumption of alcohol could cause cancer, the more alcohol an individual consumed the greater that risk, and that viewers should reflect on, and potentially reduce, their alcohol intake.
“We did not consider that the ad over-emphasised the risk of developing alcohol related cancers, or suggested that viewers should significantly reduce their intake or abstain from the consumption of alcohol completely.
“In addition, we noted that the ad encouraged viewers to visit the website www.reducemyrisk.tv and find out more about the Government’s recommended guidelines and for guidance regarding their own drinking habits. Therefore, we concluded that the ad was not misleading or irresponsible.”
Bridget Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, said she was “extremely disappointed” by the ruling, and that she still believed the ad was “unfair and alarmist” in the way it depicts moderate drinking and the risk associated with cancer.
But a delighted Colin Shevills, the director of Balance North East, said it was “a real victory for the health community” and attacked the beer industry for trying to prevent his organisation from “providing health messages to the public, which is highly irresponsible.”
“It also shows an industry which is putting profits before health and wellbeing – similar tactics to those that were employed by the tobacco industry,” he said.
“The aim of this advertising campaign was to make people aware of the link between alcohol and seven types of cancer, then directing viewers to further information online so they could make their own, informed decision about how much they drink.
“Here in the North East of England we experience some of the worst alcohol related health problems. Unlike tobacco, very few people associate alcohol with cancer and we need these perceptions to change.”