Key health groups call for review of self-regulated advertising

Wednesday 24 September, 2008

A Jim Beam television advertisement ‘The Stalker' has been pulled from the airwaves after a complaint by key health agencies was upheld by the Advertising Standards Board (ASB).

The complaint by the Alcohol Policy Coalition -a group comprising the Cancer Council Victoria, VicHealth, the Australian Drug Foundation and Turning Point - argued the advertisement and its associated website contravened both the Alcohol Beverage Advertising Code and the Australian National Advertisers Code of Ethics. The complaint was also upheld by the Alcohol Advertising Adjudication Panel.

Geoff Munro from the Alcohol Policy Coalition said the advertisement is irresponsible and offensive and contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety.

"This advertisement promotes and trivialises stalking, which is a criminal offence, and sends viewers a dangerous message that it's acceptable to engage in this behaviour. It clearly presents an irresponsible approach to the consumption of alcohol through its association of a Jim Beam product with this offensive behaviour, " said Mr Munro.

"The decision by both the ASB and the Alcohol Advertising Adjudication Panel to uphold the complaint shows the current pre-vetting system is clearly not working and is not keeping pace with community standards. This ad should never have aired and we need to assess why it ran in the first place."

"A broad review of the self-regulated advertising system is needed, along with the introduction of effective enforcement powers to make the pre-vetting of all alcohol advertisements compulsory. Under the current self-regulated system, advertisers who offend are not legally obliged to remove their ad from air, as Jim Beam has done in this case. The ASB and Alcohol Advertising Adjudication Panel should be given the power to enforce their decisions. Given it's likely further advertisements such as this will emerge as we head into summer, action must be taken now to avoid a similar situation in the future," said Mr Munro.

‘The Stalker' is part of an ongoing Jim Beam advertising campaign entitled ‘The Bourbon'. It features an attractive woman in a bar who admits to following her ex-boyfriend for extended periods despite having a restraining order prohibiting her to do so. It pointed viewers to a website where they are invited to choose from a list of SMS messages to send to a person of their choice. Examples included: "Don't turn round baby, but you look so hot. Speaking of babies ours'd be so cute, like you. I wonder what we'd call them?" and "Who is she? It's not your sister 'cause she's tied up in my basement. I forgive you. It's me or it's no one! I hate u but I love u."

The ASB decision is available at the advertising standards bureau website. See also the Alcohol Advertising Adjudication Panel decision. The Alcohol Policy Coalition's complaint regarding the Jim Beam ‘The Stalker' advertisement and website is attached to this decision.