The 100 days 100 ways Smirnoff advertising campaign aired on the channel TVNZ OnDemand from October 26, 2021, to February 15, 2022. On March 8, 2022 the Advertising Standards Association (ASA) received a complaint about the advertisement by Laurie Forde, a student and part-time kindergarten teacher.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is a self-regulation organisation that investigates breaches of advertising standards in New Zealand, according to Wikipedia. The ASA provides a free complaints process for consumers about the content and placement of advertisements. In assessing complaints, the ASA apply the self-regulatory code of conduct. Key requirements of these codes include truthful presentation and a sense of social responsibility. If a complaint is upheld, the ASA formally request the advertisement is removed or amended. Decisions are released to the media and the public via email and online.
The Smirnoff advertisement was found to be problematic because it shows 100 different cocktails that can be made from Smirnoff and the implication is to challenge viewers to try one cocktail for 100 days. This is harmful and contravenes the guidance given by the New Zealand government on low-risk alcohol use. The Ministry of Health recommends abstaining from alcohol at least two days a week and also states no amount of alcohol consumed can be deemed safe.
The six-second-long advertisement disregards this evidence and guidance by encouraging people to try a new cocktail every day for 100 days.
Ms. Forde in her complaint said that the advertisement ran “with an implication their product being consumed in 100 ways over 100 days was exciting” which is a problematic implication.
I’m sick of alcohol companies using any opportunity to glamorize [alcohol use] while it hurts a lot of people, families, the community,” said Laurie Forde, a student and part-time kindergarten teacher, as per stuff.Laurie Forde, a student, and part-time kindergarten teacher
A majority of the ASA complaints board upheld Ms. Forde’s complaint. The ASA decision was released on April 22, 2022 and listed three problems:
- A majority found that viewers would mainly see the ad as promoting the different ways Smirnoff could be used, but also how frequently they could use it.
- A majority of the board found that the combination of versatility and frequency in the advertisement meant it did not support the “responsible” consumption of alcohol.
- The board stated that consumers were likely to register the 100 ways and 100 days in equal measure.
Smirnoff is a brand of vodka owned and produced by the British alcohol industry giant Diageo. But in New Zealand, Diageo’s vodka brand is distributed by Lion. Lion is Big Alcohol company operating in Australia and New Zealand, and a subsidiary of Japanese alcohol giant Kirin.
At first Lion refuted the complaint in a submission to the ASA complaints board. The alcohol company even took aim at Ms. Forde saying she didn’t apply “common sense” to the advertisement.
Ultimately, Big Alcohol accepted the ASA decision. But they still claim the advertisement was about the versatility of the product. This claim highlights the weakness of the alcohol marketing self-regulation system where alcohol companies violate their own rules of conduct, deploy harmful alcohol advertising campaigns and make misleading claims about the nature and impact of such campaigns.
A spokesperson for TVNZ said the broadcaster accepted the decision as well.
There is clear evidence of negative health, personal and social issues around habitual [alcohol use],” said Laurie Forde, as per stuff.
It is harmful to have messaging promoting such high levels of alcohol consumption. Smirnoff’s wilful disregard of the health of New Zealanders is evident, and it is dangerous.”Laurie Forde, a student and part-time kindergarten teacher
Three ways in which alcohol marketing is harmful
Previously, Movendi International has exposed three ways in which alcohol marketing is harmful:
- Alcohol marketing causes harm to children and youth.
- Alcohol marketing saturates society with alcohol and perpetuates the harmful alcohol norm.
- And alcohol marketing prevents evidence-based alcohol industry regulation.
Ms. Forde said to stuff that she was happy with the decision but that companies who breach ASA guidelines should be fined.
This highlights another flaw of the self-regulation system: it only reacts upon complaints and the advertising has been already broadcast, meaning the damage has been done.
Currently, there are no consequences for alcohol companies who breach the ASA marketing guidelines except the removal of the specific advertisement. New Zealand does not have any independent limits on alcohol marketing.
The lack of accountability breeds continued breaches of the ASA guidelines by alcohol companies that invade even the most private spaces with alcohol marketing, thus exposing children, families, and communities to pervasive alcohol harm.
Ultimately, Ms. Forde wants to see a complete ban on alcohol advertising – one of the three best proven and impactful solutions to protect people from alcohol harm.
A complete ban or comprehensive restrictions on alcohol marketing is one of the alcohol policy best buys recommended by the World Health Organization. It is one of the most cost-effective measures to prevent and reduce the harm caused by the alcohol industry, but also one of the most under-utilized measures.