The end of the "shelfie" - a ramble about the impact of the alcohol advertising ban

The end of the "shelfie" - a ramble about the impact of the alcohol advertising ban

"Without branding and other marketing strategies, alcohol products in each beverage sub-sector are essentially variations of the same thing."

Do we agree, lovely wine-os? 

This is taken from the Scottish government's website "Restricting alcohol advertising and promotion" which will go to consultation on the 9th March 2023. It's an interesting read, and while I may be on the wrong side of history in disagreeing with it, at the very least I'd like to argue the above quotation, as I find it ~mildly~ offensive.

So what is the ban?

What the government are proposing here is a ban on any and all alcohol advertising, including but not limited to TV adverts, billboards, posters, "eye catching labels," sport sponsorship, brand merchandise and social media restrictions. 

Is it really fair that we can just call all alcohol "the same thing under a different label." Or does it diminish and belittle the thousands of years of viti- and vini-culture, not to mention distilling, brewing and fermentation practices that are a huge part of Scottish history and culture? Shall we ignore the huge contributions to the industry from illustrators, artists, graphic designers and branding developers? 

But why are you so offended?

Let's recall the first week of lockdown 2020, where we all loaded our boots with wine for our isolation bubble, locked down our doors, said "see you in 3 weeks" to our colleagues and stashed the petty cash drawer, only to be told three days later that off-licences were in fact an essential service and we should continue to serve the public during the pandemic. Please don't get me wrong, I'd have gone insane if I couldn't work during all those weeks that we were inside, but we were customer facing, driving around delivering wine, accepting orders and dealing with multiple people who didn't know what 6ft looked like (about 6 wine bottles end to end FYI). In fact, a lot of us were busier than ever. Perhaps I'm getting a little too angry whilst writing this - but it all just seems a little bit tongue in cheek coming from the powers that be. To be told one year you are essential, then 18 months later told that you are a public health hazard just gets my goat a little bit. 

With this new legislation we're going to see a dramatic drop in big sponsored gigs. Events like the Fringe rely heavily on alcohol sponsorship, and all of this would be cut. You could say goodbye to Carlsberg sponsoring football, Guiness at rugby and Lanson at tennis. "But Kirsty, Surely the non-alcoholic version of these products would be fine!" I hear you cry! And no! I reply. De-alcoholised beverages are also bad, as they may encourage people to try the boozey version. Not only that, but I would not be allowed to make a poster advertising a tasting, nor would I be able to make tote bags, stickers, or pin badges promoting BLUDGE (they were on the way I swear!) We'd have to resort to blacked out windows to off licenses, so that bottles aren't visible to the public on the street. Did you enjoy seeing images of beautifully edited delicate stemmed glasses of wine being clinked on a beach? Tough, we can't advertise "glamourous scenarios" in which one may enjoy a bottle of wine or a GnT.

Why are they doing this?

This is all in an effort to curb Scotland's drinking problem, and it is by no means the first attempt to do so. In Scotland, we introduced minimum pricing in May 2018, whereby alcohol cannot be sold for less than 50 pence per unit. But one year on in 2019 studies suggested that sales of alcohol in Scotland actually increased. Granted, it was by less than 1%, around 1.8 million litres, but this is obviously not the result that the governing bodies were hoping for. Public Health Scotland have since come out and suggested that minimum pricing has worked based on the last two years, but we were also locked inside for a lot of that...They claim to have adjusted for this, but there is no evidence as to how. The circles that wine merchant tend to swirl around in weren't actually effected too much by this legislation, which begs the question as to who it did effect? Does it make a difference whether someone is chugged 4 bottles of White Lightning a day versus 4 bottles of Claret - or was the whole suggestion mildly classist?

But don't you think they have some good points?

This is a nuanced area, and there are points to the article that I am concerned by. Alcohol deaths and hospitalisations are of course a concern, as well as limiting exposure to those who find advertisements triggering. There is a watershed for fast food - I cannot understand why there isn't one for alcohol. I don't think advertising alcohol near schools is a good idea. Kids aren't, shouldn't, and never will be, the target market for my business, and of course we should make attempts to limit their exposure.

Once again, we are tackling this problem by cutting off the head of the dandelion instead of pulling up the root. In order to effectively combat the effects of dangerous drinking in Scotland we need to sort out some deep rooted societal problems before we start slapping plain labels on bottles. Known specific risk factors of any substance abuse are: stress, poverty, lack of education, (and weirdly, higher education) alongside mental health disorders. If we can reduce these internal factors we'd solve a lot more problems than alcohol.

Like I say, I'm willing to admit I may be on the wrong side of history, but this is my livelihood we're talking about here! I've always been anti-smoking, so was thrilled when the plain packets and behind the counter opaque cases not only came in, but pretty much worked right away! Perhaps this makes me a hypocrite. Whether you agree with me or not (because I'd be a very big hypocrite if I were to suggest that I'm right and an opposing view is wrong) there is a portal for the open consultation here. I urge you to self regulate before the right to do so is taken from us.

For your consideration, attached is some imagery used or promoted by the Scottish Government in the last month which would be classed as "illegal" under the new proposed consultation outcomes. 

The SNP wish us all a happy Burns' Night, with the Bard, a wee beastie and a Haggis enjoying a dram.
Maggie Gourgon, Rural Affairs Secretary throws whisky into a river to bless the salmon season and wish anglers success, after a tasting organised by Glenkinchie.
Tennents designs football strips to raise money for charities
The Scottish Governement make the case for independence, citing whisky as an important factor.

If you made it this far - congratulations!! Why not check out our "amazing labels box" why you still can! *wink wink*
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