Party like it’s payday… with rum?

Just when you thought the marketing techniques of alcohol companies couldn’t shock you any further, along comes an ad campaign that takes things to a whole new low.

Last month the Alcohol Advertising Review Board received a complaint about outdoor ads for Captain Morgan Original Spiced Gold Rum with the very prominent message, “Party like it’s payday”.

Understandably, the complainant was concerned about the tagline linking drinking and payday:

It makes me think of the people who spend their pay on alcohol and then don’t have much money left over for essentials like food and rent etc. There has been quite a lot of talk in the media of cashless welfare cards which can’t be used on alcohol or gambling so people use their money on food, clothing and bills. This is obviously a big problem in Australia, so it seems outrageous to have a very public alcohol advertising campaign that is actually promoting partying and buying alcohol around the payday theme.”

When notified of the complaint, Diageo Australia, the owner of Captain Morgan rum, declined to participate in the AARB process and confirmed their support for the self-regulatory system.

Given the sensitive issues the ad could raise, you’d think they’d be pretty careful where they put the ad, right?

Wrong.

The AARB received a second complaint about the ad, this time placed directly outside a Centrelink office on a Telstra payphone. The complainant said:

The sign says “Party like its Payday” conveniently out the front of Centrelink where people go to get their fortnightly welfare payment. This is highly insensitive considering Australia’s alcohol issues are highly prevalent amount those on welfare benefits (I.e. Aboriginal, Low SEIFA). Teenagers are also exposed to this (i.e. those on Ab Study or Aus Study allowances).”

Considering the substantial concerns about alcohol-related harms in Australia, including alcohol use among young people and vulnerable populations who are likely to visit Centrelink, the placement of this ad is blatantly inappropriate.

These complaints were reviewed and upheld by the AARB Panel. The Panel believed the tagline was irresponsible and encouraged excessive drinking, and that the ad attempts to establish that drinking Captain Morgan should take precedence over other activities, such as paying for accommodation and food.

The Alcohol Advertising Guidelines of the Outdoor Media Association (OMA), the peak national industry body that represents most of Australia’s outdoor media companies, note that its members “only accept copy for alcohol advertising that has been approved for display through the Alcohol Advertising Pre-vetting System”.

Evidently, the content of the Captain Morgan ad was actually approved by the self-regulatory system, highlighting serious concerns about its ability to ensure alcohol advertising is socially responsible.

In addition, the OMA has only one guideline relating to the placement of alcohol ads – that they cannot be placed within 150 metres of a school gate. Everywhere else is open slather.

So it appears neither the content of the “Party like it’s payday” rum ad nor its placement outside a Centrelink breach any codes in the self-regulatory system.

Despite this, the AARB has written to the OMA and Advertising Standards Bureau to seek their position on whether the content and placement of the Captain Morgan ad is consistent with the OMA’s commitment to “the responsible advertising of alcoholic beverages”. The AARB has also written to Telstra to highlight our concerns about outdoor alcohol advertising and ask that they consider phasing out alcohol advertising on Telstra property, including pay phones.

The AARB was developed by the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and Cancer Council WA in response to concerns about the effectiveness of alcohol advertising self-regulation in Australia.

This Captain Morgan ad is yet another example that highlights the need for this alternative complaint review system to support action on alcohol ads that the self-regulatory system deems acceptable.

If you see an alcohol ad that concerns you, we encourage you to submit a complaint to the AARB. Every complaint the AARB receives is further evidence of the need for strong, independent, legislated controls on alcohol advertising in Australia. Visit www.alcoholadreview.com.au and follow @AlcoholAdReview on Twitter to find out more.

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Hannah Pierce

Hannah Pierce is an Information and Research Officer at the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth and the Executive Officer of the Alcohol Advertising Review Board. Hannah and the Alcohol Advertising Review Board welcome complaints from the Australian community about inappropriate alcohol advertising.

This article has 4 comments

  1. Sam Reply

    Great article Hannah and thanks for publicising this very concerning issue. Is it possible to have an update/ follow up article about Telstra’s response and also the response from OMA and the advertising Standards Bureau? One wonders where the line will be drawn or whether the outdated self regulatory code will continue to be the basis for all excuses for the deliberate advertising of alcohol products to vulnerable groups in our communities?

  2. stan and avis Reply

    Congratulations Han – a very explanatory and interesting article – well written

  3. Lindsay Rigby Reply

    For the past twenty plus of my eighty years I have been intermittently engaged in a seemingly futile campaign to address Alcohol Related Violence & Waste. I have reached the stage where I cannot squander any more of my precious time on this planet on such futile endeavours. However the Captain Morgan advertisement (both content and placement) stirred my ire once again, hence this comment. Twenty years ago I was exclaiming over the prominence of alcohol advertising, particularly country towns. The nature of the contradictory messaging that occurs in our society is astounding. To place such an inappropriate advertisement outside Centre Link is appalling. What about the effect on people attending Centre Link who might be grappling with their addiction being bombarded with such a message.

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