Another great con job from the alcohol distillers with their claimed ban on advertising on TV before 9pm. Reports of the “generous” offer by the alcopops/distilling industry to ban advertising of their products on TV for much of each day was at first confused, and then poorly reported.

AAP reported it as a total ban on advertising before 9pm: “The distilling industry has delivered on a promise to the senator who killed the Rudd government’s alcopops tax hike by announcing a year-long ban on television advertising before 9pm.”

The Australian this morning reported it as a ban on advertising in sport in daylight hours:

Distillers will voluntarily stop advertising their products during daytime sports television broadcasts, in a first for the alcohol industry, rewarding a key senator who voted against the alcopops tax hike last month.

The Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia, which waged a bitter war against the Government’s excise hike on pre-mixed drinks, announced yesterday its members had agreed on a 12-month trial ban on TV advertising before 9pm, from July 1.

The initiative follows a long-committed campaign by Family First senator (Steve) Fielding to develop a comprehensive anti-binge-drinking strategy that includes a ban on alcohol TV advertising before 9pm and enhanced warning labels for alcohol products,” its statement read.”

On Thursday, the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA), which represents about 80 per cent of the industry, announced its members would begin phasing out advertising.

By July 1 this year, DSICA members, including Bacardi Breezer maker Bacardi Lion, and Jim Beam Brands Australia, won’t advertise on TV before 9pm.

DSICA’s Stephen Riden said the ban would be evaluated after 12 months to determine its effectiveness in reducing binge drinking.

But the ban is a fiddle. They don’t advertise all that much in daylight hours for certain reasons. The first is that most of their target audiences are not watching TV because they are at school, work or university or TAFE.

Secondly there are periods during the day when they can’t advertise on TV: in the morning and afternoon Children’s classification periods.

There is also very little sport played in the day time now in Australia, apart from test cricket and the occasional One Day International in summer (which are day night matches).

They will not advertise during the early evening in sport (but all TV, it’s unclear?). That means for NRL, AFL, soccer, cricket and Rugby union games kicking off from 7.30 pm onwards, the likes of Bundaberg won’t be seen in TV ads, after July 1. Or will they?

But will they still be allowed to name Rugby Union tests after the spirit: this winter’s Australian test matches involving the Wallabies, France, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa are so named.

There are programs they don’t advertise in before 9 pm; such as the 6pm to 7pm news and current affairs programs, nor family orientated programs like Packed To The Rafters or Find My Family or RPA or The Biggest Loser.

Because much of Saturday and Sunday is children’s TV, they are banned from those periods as well.

But the ban isn’t a ban, it’s a marketing ploy.

Consider Diageo, the world’s biggest grog group, which controls Johnny Walker whisky, Smirnoff vodka and Bundaberg Rum.

This winter’s Rugby Union tests (which will start at 8 pm on Channel Seven and on Fox Sports) is already branded as the “Bundaberg” test series. Go to this Rugby website: “2009 Bundaberg Rum test Series” says the link. The signage at all the ground will say so as well.

With four tests played before July 1, Diageo will be able to saturate the Channel Seven and Fox Sports coverage with ads to its hearts content. There are three other tests played in Australia from July 1 in prime time: there will be games also from New Zealand and from South Africa. The South African tests will be after 9pm so the grog ads will be allowed!

Diageo sells more rum mixed with cola and in what’s called Ready To Drink formats (bottles of alcopop as well), than it does through sales of straight rum in bottles or flasks. Sales through pubs and clubs through mixing machines is also a big outlet. Without this marketing of the rum-based RTDs, Diageo probably wouldn’t own Bundaberg rum. For Johnny Walker and Smirnoff though, which sell lots of alcohol in bottles, alcopops and RTDs are a nice add on.

And next summer Johnny Walker, which is a big advertiser and sponsor of the cricket on Nine, will still be allowed the ground signage and the on air promotions on Nine, such as “Johnny Walker Trivia.”

In contrast the TV grog ban in France is complete, ads, gear and signage: forbidden.

These are just some examples of where the distillers’ self- imposed ban is a con job. The media has been conned and so has Senator Steve Fielding.

Peter Fray

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