ASA bans Whisp Alcohol video featuring underage influencer
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered Whisp Drinks to stop advertising non-permitted low-calorie nutrition claims about alcoholic drinks and not hire people under 25 years of age to promote it.
In February this year a TikTok post for Whisp Drinks’ hard seltzer alcoholic drinks was released where influencer Rosie Breen was seen in a video narrating “3 reasons I drink alcohol” in which she was seen holding a can of Whisp in each hand. The video went on to show Breen dancing and pointing to further captions including “Im [sic] on my weight loss journey & they’re only 63 calories a can” and “They actually get you drunk.” The caption of the post stated: “#ad 10/10 beveragino I’ve been drinking for exactly One Year.”
Three issues were investigated, all of which were upheld:
In February a TikTok post for Whisp Drinks’ hard seltzer alcoholic drinks was released featuring influencer Rosie Breen
“Im [sic] on my weight loss journey & they’re only 63 calories a can” was not permitted for alcoholic drinks;
“They actually get you drunk” was irresponsible because it encouraged excessive drinking;
The ASA challenged whether the ad breached the Code because it featured someone who was, or seemed to be, under 25 years of age
The video breached the Cap Code (Edition 12) 18.1,18.16,18.17,15.1 and 15.1.1.
Wild Drinks Group Ltd t/a Whisp Drinks responded by stating it would remove the post. Breen said that at that time she was new to working with brands, and was unaware of the sensitive nature of the message and of the code rules relating to non-permitted weight-control claims for alcohol products. She apologized and said the post had been a reflection of her opinion of the beverage, and that she was happy to remove it and ensure future content was compliant with the rules.
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In response to the second issue, Breen said her intention was never to present or promote irresponsible behavior. She said that when she initially came across Whisp Drinks products, she was unsure of their purpose and therefore the comment “They actually get you drunk” aimed to highlight that the product still felt like an alcoholic drink. She also confirmed that she was 24 years old at the time of the post.
TikTok said that the video was branded content promoting alcohol, which was globally prohibited on their platform, and that it had been removed.
Only nutrition claims authorized on the Great Britain nutrition and health claims (NHC) register are permitted in ads promoting food or drinks. The Cap Code defines a nutrition claim as any claim that states, suggests or implies that a food or drink has particular beneficial nutritional properties due to the amount of calories, nutrients or other substances it contains, does not contain, or contains in reduced or increased proportions. The code further requires that the only permitted nutrition claims that can be made in relation to alcohol are “low-alcohol,” “reduced alcohol” and “reduced energy.”
The code allows ads for alcoholic drinks to give factual information about product contents. It was therefore permissible for advertisers to make factual numerical statements about the calorific content of an alcoholic drink in their advertising. However, the ASA considered that by preceding the “63 calories a can” claim with the word “only,” the ad suggested that the drink had the particular beneficial nutritional property of being low in calories (ie energy). Additionally, it considered the statement “Im [sic] on my weight loss journey” further emphasized that the product was low in calories.
The claim “only 63 calories a can” was therefore a nutrition claim equivalent to a low calorie/energy nutrition claim. However, it was not permitted to make a low-calorie/energy nutrition claim in relation to alcohol.
The ASA welcomed Whisp Drinks and Breen’s actions to remove the post, but deemed the post as irresponsible.