Restricting alcohol advertising and promotion: consultation

This consultation seeks views on potential restrictions to alcohol advertising and promotion in Scotland.

14. Restrictions on content of advertisements

“I would love to be at a party like that. They’re all drinking and dancing and having fun.”

Male, 14−15, Manchester, 2005

“It’s one-sided, only shows the good, not the bad. This makes you want to have a drink more because it replaces the bad with the good in your mind.”

Person in recovery

14.1 Alcohol adverts often show alcohol being consumed in a glamourous, fun, cool or sociable way in order to present this in a positive manner. We know that children and young people find alcohol adverts appealing and that this influences young people to have positive ideas about drinking alcohol. Children and young people are particularly drawn to elements of music, characters, story and humour. Multiple studies, including in Scotland, have shown a link between how much a young person likes an alcohol advert and their drinking behaviours.

14.2 The existing self-regulatory codes include rules focused on the content of adverts such as prohibiting marketing linking alcohol with sexual success, implying that alcohol can enhance confidence or popularity, implying that drinking alcohol is a key component of the success of a personal relationship or social event.

14.3 These rules are open to interpretation and judgement of individuals, e.g. the Code rule prohibiting content that is ‘particularly’ or ‘strongly’ appealing to children. The decision-making process does not include children and young people themselves.

14.4 Irish research has shown that that marketing for adults often appeals to children. This included marketing that would appear in locations that children would often attend such as shops. The reasons cited for appealing are often the same reasons given by adults such as ‘funny’, ‘celebs looked cool’, ‘colourful’.

Case study: Estonia

Estonia introduced a comprehensive set of alcohol marketing restrictions across all media channels in order to reduce high alcohol consumption levels and drinking amongst young people. As part of this, content restrictions were introduced meaning that, where alcohol advertising is allowed, adverts can only contain the following permitted characteristics:

  • Product name
  • Product type
  • Manufacturer’s name
  • Trademark
  • Country of origin
  • Geographical area produced in
  • Alcohol volume
  • Image of sales packaging
  • Properties (colour, aroma, taste)
  • Serving suggestion

Information contained in advertising of alcohol must be focused on the product and be presented neutrally. The design of information presented in advertising shall not:

contain a living being, a picture or image in any manner, except for human voice;

contain an animated image of inanimate objects;

incite to buy or consume alcohol;

depict the serving or consumption of alcohol;

link alcohol to any important dates, events, activities or seasons;

otherwise leave an impression that alcohol is a natural part of life and that consumption of alcohol has a positive effect;

link alcohol to driving;

place emphasis on high ethanol content as being a positive quality of beverages;

imitate the voice of well-known persons or characters or the voice of persons or characters known from films, television, music or entertainment programmes or events directed principally at children.

14.5 If Scotland followed the Estonia model then we would restrict the content of adverts to a list of objective and factual criteria. The aim of this would be to make adverts less appealing and weaken the link between seeing alcohol adverts, and developing positive feelings between brands and positive attitudes towards consumption.

14.6 Restricting the content of alcohol advertising would also benefit the general public, including higher-risk drinkers who can find alcohol adverts more appealing and react in a stronger way than lighter drinkers, causing increased cravings or for those in recovery who are susceptible to current alcohol marketing.

14.7 We know that young people find adverts that feature more factual product attributes such as ingredients and taste far less appealing than those that portray drinking lifestyles. Research has also demonstrated that in comparison to neutral and informative content, more lifestyle linked advertising has a greater influence on the attractiveness of the product and the desire to consume it. By removing the attractiveness of alcohol in the advertising we begin to change the culture around alcohol.

14.8 Children and young people in Scotland investigating alcohol marketing felt that alcohol adverts can be targeted toward young people. This can be through alcohol brands portraying drinking alcohol as a fun, sociable and a community activity which makes people feel good and equals happiness. They found that many alcohol adverts featured young-looking people and often use humour, catchy slogans, popular songs and other tactics to appeal to a youthful market. They identified restricting the content of alcohol adverts as the below recommendation demonstrates.

Young Scot Health Panel


Prohibit the use of real people or anthropomorphic animals/objects in alcohol adverts.

Question 32

Do you think that the content of alcohol marketing in Scotland should be restricted to more factual elements?

Please tick one



Don’t Know

Please explain your answer in the text box.

Question 33

Do you think we should only allow alcohol marketing to include elements set out in a list, like in Estonia? This would mean all other elements not on the list would be banned from adverts.

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Don’t Know

Please explain your answer in the text box.

Question 34

Do you think that content restrictions like the Estonian model should be applied to all types of alcohol marketing?

Please tick one



Don’t Know

Please explain your answer in the text box.



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