The Association for Alcohol Responsibility and Education (aware.org) launched a new code of Commercial Communications for alcohol beverage brands that sets out clear guidelines for responsible marketing of their products to reduce harm.
The industry’s Code for Commercial Communications (the Code) was recently launched to its partners, media, key marketing industry players and members of government at an event that took place at The Capital Hotel on Park in Sandton, Johannesburg. It was developed as a comprehensive self-regulatory framework and guideline that provides specific and structured principles for the crafting and dissemination of marketing messages for alcoholic products.
According to the organisation, the purpose of the Code is to represent a firm commitment by the members of aware.org to maintain high standards of responsibility and ethical conduct in all commercial communication activities, ‘which will demonstrate that we, as an industry, believe in marketing for change’. It is designed to ensure that alcohol-related commercial communications are conducted in a manner that neither conflicts with nor detracts from the need for responsibility and moderation in liquor merchandising and consumption.
Ingrid Louw, CEO of aware.org, said, ’Through the Code, we aim to encourage the best creative minds in the country, both agencies and marketers, to become world leaders in the responsible marketing arena. The Code is the industry standard that we can and must live by.’
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), South Africa is the sixth largest drinking nation in the world even though only 30% of South Africans consumer alcohol. The alcoholic beverage industry has been mulling over the potential impact of the National Liquor Amendment Bill, presented for public comment in 2016, which could result in severe restrictions on the industry’s ability to market their products if enacted into law.
‘The aim is certainly not to wag the finger, but it is an opportunity for us to engage with those who have the greatest influence on the strategic and creative expression of the marketing of alcohol products, whether on television, radio, billboards or in digital spaces, which is where most brands communicate their brand messages today, and which will continue to grow exponentially in the future,’ continued Louw.
Notable speakers at the launch event affirming the industry’s commitment included: Chief Director of the National Liquor Authority, Prea Ramdhuny; Heineken Corporate Affairs Director South Africa, Millicent Maroga; MD of Diageo SA, Graeme Harlow; and Vice-President for Corporate Affairs at SAB, Zoleka Lisa, who opened the event on behalf of the Chairman of the Board of aware.org, Ricardo Ferreira.
‘We need to develop a common industry vision,’ said Lisa. ‘The introduction of our self-regulated Code is more than just a promise and goes beyond compliance. We, as an industry, already actively support campaigns that reduce alcohol abuse and we invest billions each year in responsible marketing activities.’
A dynamic and challenging panel discussion chaired by veteran journalist and radio presenter John Perlman featured Chief Director of the National Liquor Authority Prea Ramdhuny, Corporate Affairs Director, Distell Southern Africa Jolene Henn, CEO of the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) Gail Schimmel and Chief Creative Officer at Joe Public Xolisa Dyeshana.
‘When Government launched its policy document seeking to change advertising laws and regulations, it was in response to the wide-ranging socio-economic effects of alcohol abuse in the country and the industry’s seeming lack of motivation to change its harmful marketing practices,’ said Ramdhuny. ‘Our hope is that through this Code, the industry can demonstrate that it is not only committed to responsible marketing but can make a real and immediate change in how its products are marketed,’ she continued.
The debate raised tough questions about the potential efficacy of the Code and the practicalities of its implementation and adoption, as well as its potential impact on alcohol harm reduction in South Africa.
The launch event was concluded by an announcement of aware.org partnering with the Loeries in the annual Loeries Student Challenge, where design, advertising and marketing students around South Africa are invited to find creative solutions, which combats underage drinking using Instagram as a first to mobile creative platform for change.
‘As the alcohol industry, we will lead from the front with responsible marketing through creative innovation. We believe that this challenge will be one of our first milestones in driving real and sustainable change through creativity, both locally and internationally,’ concluded Louw.
The winning campaign will be produced professionally with Facebook/Instagram’s guidance, together with the winners, and run on Instagram to millions of people, courtesy of Facebook.