Prepared Foods August 8, 2005 enewsletter

U.K. drinks companies have been ordered to hire paunchy, balding men for advertisements to meet new rules forbidding any link between women's drinking and sex. Watchdogs have issued a list of undesirable male characteristics that advertisers must obey to comply with tougher rules designed to separate alcohol from sexual success.

Lambrini, the popular sparkling drink, is the first to suffer. Its manufacturers have complained after watchdogs rejected its latest campaign because it depicted women flirting with a man who was deemed too attractive.

The offending poster featured three women "hooking" a slim, young man in a parody of a fairground game scene. Harmless fun to lead its summer campaign, Lambrini argued.

However, the Committee of Advertising Practice declared, "We would advise that the man in the picture should be unattractive -- overweight, middle-aged, balding etc."

The ruling continued, "We consider that the advert is in danger of implying that the drink may bring sexual/social success, because the man in question looks quite attractive and desirable to the girls. If the man was clearly unattractive, we think that this implication would be removed."

The ruling comes after ministers' warnings to the drinks industry to take measures to tackle binge-drinking or face legislation.

The new code instructs that "links must not be made between alcohol and seduction, sexual activity or sexual success." Romance and flirtation are not forbidden, but ads must not be aimed at those under the age of 18 or use celebrities in a "sexy" or "cool" manner.

The Bacardi adverts that turned Vinnie Jones into a "party animal" would now be banned, and the measure could affect George Clooney's deal to advertise Martini. Lambrini's makers complained that the ruling was offensive to a large tranche of the male population. Are Jack Nicholson, Bruce Willis, Sean Connery and Ray Winstone unattractive to women, the company asked?

Lambrini owner John Halewood said, "The watchdog makes some very understandable rulings to encourage sensible drinking, but we are not sure they are qualified to decide for the nation who is sexy and who is not. Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder." Lambrini has now recreated its ad, employing a balding, male figure whose lack of pulchritude has proved acceptable to the watchdog.

Campaigns requiring a rethink include a Carling ad showing a man licking up beer which has been dribbled around a flat by a scantily clad female. Baileys echoed that campaign with a commercial in which a woman sniffed the breath of presentable men in a bar to discover which one had snaffled her drink. Further adverts sparking criticism included Gordon's Gin, which introduced the concept of "strip chess" and possibly Smirnoff, whose “opera house” ads depict a passionate and attractive couple having to pretend, in order to cover up their noisy activities, that the woman is going into labor.

Boddingtons beer ads with Melanie Sykes, the Mancunian model, would be among the first to fall foul of the new ruling. Sykes reportedly helped to boost sales from £50 million ($89 million) to £300 million ($535 million) in four years in the 1990s.

One of the U.K.'s most popular series of television ads also could face being taken off screen under the ruling. The Cinzano series in the late 1970s played on the humor of the many ways in which bungling Leonard Rossiter could pour his drink over an alluring Joan Collins.

Source: The Times (London)