A billboard seeking to recruit a new generation of young drinkers in Ballarat breached the industry advertising code and has now been removed. The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) Complaints Panel determined that the 'Three Kings' advertising campaign encouraged under-age drinking and used models under the age of 25 as the focus of the ad.
The Ballarat billboard was part of a national campaign from Independent Distillers, whose previous offerings include the Vodka Mudshake, which was found to be indistinguishable from a chocolate milkshake to teenagers. The 'Three Kings' ads could also be found in buses, including those doing school runs.
The ABAC scheme is voluntary and Indpendent Distillers have refused to become a signatory to the code. Apparently a quasi-regulatory, industry-funded scheme with industry representatives on its management committee is too onerous for a company looking to recruit teen drinkers.
Part of the ABAC scheme is a pre-vetting process for advertising campaigns that is designed to ensure ads meet ABAC standards. By refusing to become a signatory to the code, Independent Distillers avoided having the 'Three Kings' ads pre-vetted and managed to have the advertising campaign run for as long as they wanted. As non-signatories to the code, Independent Distillers did not have to comply with the findings of the ABAC Complaints Panel.
So what is the punishment for corporate crooks who refuse to meet even minimum industry standards and encourage underage drinking in their advertising? Nothing. No fine, no jail time, not even any restrictions on their advertising or the product in question. In fact, the 'Three Kings' website with the same ad campaign as the offending billboard is still live and the Ballarat billboard has only just been removed despite the Complaints Panel determination being made in December last year.
Once again, it comes back to the community. How do we feel about this and what are we going to do about it?