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New Portman Group code sets 'gold standard' for drinks marketing

Published:  09 November, 2012

Stricter rules governing how images of under 25s are used in alcohol marketing, new guidelines on promoting lower strength drinks and closer ties with the Advertising Standards Authority are all key facets of the Portman Group's revised code of practice.

The responsibility group for drinks producers in the UK, which counts as members Diageo GB, Pernod Ricard UK and Bacardi Brown Forman Brands among others, launched the fifth edition of its Code of Practice on the Responsible Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks today.

In addition to the new or revised rules mentioned above, the group will also introduce tougher regulations on drinks marketing in social media. Working more closely with the Advertising Standard Authority, the Portman Group will cover any PR material and user generated content posted on producer sites.

In May, a new UK-wide sponsorship code will be launched, following a full consultation with brand owners. The body is currently working on the detail, but it is thought that it will require producers to include promoting responsible drinking as an integral part of any sponsorship.

Speaking at the London launch yesterday, Henry Ashworth, the body's chief executive, said: "The Portman Group code of practice is recognised across Europe as a gold standard. We need to be innovative and pushing forward.

"We're in a precarious place right now, on the one hand we have the Responsibility Deal which provides a fantastic framework for voluntary commitments, but on the other hand, principally in Scotland but also in Westminster, there is a more interventionist approach."

He added that it was in the industry's best interests to "demonstrate that voluntary self-regulation is faster and more efficient" than statutory intervention.

He said the industry was looking for a "consistent approach from government as a partner", adding, "we need trust".

"Delivering on what we say we will do is fundamental to proving a partnership approach can be successful," added Ashworth.

Ashworth said that while there had been 12 complaints about alcohol marketing in the past year, over 1,000 companies had approached it for advice before launching new advertising programmes.

Previously producers were not permitted to focus on alcoholic strength in marketing, but since one of the commitments under the Responsibility Deal focuses on promoting lower alcohol products, a new rule will allow producers to do this. The new guidelines allow producers to draw attention to the strength of products which are below the average of similar drinks.

The revised code will take effect from May 2013.

For full details of the code and related guidance, click here. To read Gemma McKenna's blog on how producers face a minefield when it comes to drinks marketing, click here.