Did “Duff” contravene the advertising code for alcoholic beverages? Which case (of beer) won?
Woolworths launches officially licensed Duff beer trademarked “The Simpsons”
In 2014, supermarket industry behemoth Woolworths introduced an officially licensed “Duff” beer to its outlets which was trademarked “The Simpsons”.
The marketing of Duff kicked off at a pub in Sydney which was transformed for the week into “Moe’s Tavern”, the bar depicted in the popular animated show The Simpsons, and featured “Krusty Burgers”.
The online campaign was on Facebook and it made it clear that this Duff beer was officially sanctioned by The Simpsons and by the show’s creator, Matt Groening.
Voluntary advertising code adopted by alcohol industry
Prior to 2014, there had been increasing awareness within Australian society of the serious social and health issues related to alcohol use, in particular under-age drinking.
To head off more onerous legislation, the alcohol industry had introduced a raft of voluntary and industry managed and funded measures. These included the Alcohol Beverages Advertising (and Packaging) Code (ABAC).
The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme
The ABAC Scheme is the centrepiece of Australia’s quasi-regulatory system and was established to respond to complaints that alcohol advertising and packaging results in excessive alcohol consumption.
The Code includes the following rules:
- Advertisements must not encourage misuse of alcohol, for example, by depicting binge drinking or glorifying drunkenness.
- Advertisements must not be aimed at minors or encourage minors to drink alcohol.
- Advertisements must not suggest that alcohol is therapeutic or brings success.
Complaint brought by the Alcohol Policy Coalition
The initial online campaign for Duff beer was quickly met with a complaint to the ABAC Complaints Panel by the Alcohol Policy Coalition (APC).
The APC is a public interest group made up of various entities including the Australian Medical Association (Victoria), the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and the Uniting Church, whose self-expressed purpose is to address “concerns about alcohol misuse”.
It was up to the ABAC Complaints Panel to determine whether Woolworths had acted in breach of the Code.