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ASA bans Hi-Spirits' Fireball blog

Published:  24 October, 2013

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint against Hi-Spirits for its Fireball brand, sparking a warning to the trade about user-generated content. The company has suspended all social media activity for the brand.

A blog post on the website, headlined "What UCAS doesn't tell freshers", included the text "Fireball makes friends - last but by no means least, if you take anything away with you from this blog then remember this: Fireball makes friends. I take it to every student affair I attend and it's always the talk of the party. The guests love you because you've brought a bottle and it's thoroughly entertaining to watch the macho boys down it like it's water, only to realise that when we say 'hot as hell', we mean it!"

The Youth Alcohol Advertising Council believed the ad encouraged excessive drinking and implied alcohol led to social success - the ASA upheld the complaint

Hi-Spirits said before April 2013 they had not been aware that the CAP Code could apply to content created by members of the public, rather than by Hi-Spirits. 

Jeremy Hill, chairman of Hi-Spirits, said: "We have been working closely with the ASA to ensure that all our advertising and marketing is compliant with the Code, and we fully acknowledge our responsibility to market our products responsibly.

"The material which this complaint relates to appeared in a customer-generated blog which was posted some months ago, and which we had removed some time before we received notification of the complaint from the ASA. It clearly puts us in a difficult position when the ASA is willing to consider complaints about social media posts which we have already removed and which cannot be accessed by the public.

"Prior to the latest ASA ruling we had already taken the decision that, for the time being, we would suspend all social media activity for Fireball, including Facebook, Twitter and blogs, based on the complaints already upheld relating to user-generated material.

"Given the ASA's remit to consider social media which includes user-generated content under the same rules as static advertising, we have been considering very carefully how Fireball can use social media without risking contravening the ASA code, before we resume. We do not believe Fireball is the only brand facing this challenge and we would suggest that there needs to be a debate between the drinks industry and advertising regulators to consider the issues this raises."