Countdown breached advertising code by including alcohol in price freeze promotion

Supermarket chain Countdown has been found to have breached advertising standards by promoting alcohol as an essential everyday item in its “great price winter freeze” promotion.

In May, Countdown announced it would lock in the prices of “more than 500 everyday essentials”, which included 20 alcohol products, over winter, in response to rising inflation.

Alcohol Healthwatch lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about a website advertisement for Countdown which referred to “more than 500 everyday essentials” and included alcohol products.

Alcohol Healthwatch said the statement “everyday essentials” had a take home message that alcohol was a product that could be safely consumed on a daily basis.

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The Health Promotion Agency’s low-risk drinking advice is to have at least two alcohol-free days a week.

The complaint said the statement’s take home message was that alcohol was essential.

“This is false.”

Countdown says 20 alcohol products were included in the promotion.

Chris McKeen/Stuff

Countdown says 20 alcohol products were included in the promotion.

It said the statement was in contrast to the Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code which states: “Alcohol must not be portrayed or represented as indispensable or that it should take priority in life.”

The ASA complaints board upheld the complaint and said it was not socially responsible for an advertiser to promote alcohol as an essential everyday item.

“The responsibility complaints board agreed the advertisement was not prepared with a high standard of social.”

The Countdown website advertisement promoted the “Great Winter Freeze” on its landing page with a banner showing a shopping cart of products.

On the left-hand side of the advertisement was a list of categories, including one labeled “beer and wine”, which provided a link to the relevant alcohol products.

The text said: “We’re freezing the prices of more than 500 everyday essentials like Odd Bunch carrots, Essentials rice, and our famous medium hot roast chicken.”

Woolworths, which owns Countdown, said it did not consider that alcohol was promoted in the campaign or portrayed as indispensable.

The ASA complaints board disagreed.

The wording, and its placement, created a clear association between the phrase “everyday essentials” and alcohol products it said.

“The board confirmed that as the likely consumer takeout of the phrase ‘everyday essentials’ was necessary items, used daily, this representation of alcohol did not meet the requirement for a high standard of social responsibility.”

Woolworths said during the first week of the campaign the advertisement was changed from “over 500 everyday essentials” to “a huge range of everyday essentials and more”.

From May 25 the number of items on the website landing page was reduced from 700 to 540, to reflect what would be considered by many to be “proper essentials”, it said.

Although the prices for alcohol products were still frozen, alcohol was removed from the landing page, it said.

The ASA ruled the ad was no to be used again.

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