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11 October 2021

Nitro Vodka pulls advertising after flurry of complaints

Vodka brand takes down social media posts after Consumer NZ complaint.

“Who’s ready for 3 Days of whatev’s you freakin like?!! Be sure to get amongst a couple of quiet NITRO’s & have a crack at our new NITRO SUGAR FREE for the health machines … #NitroVodka #SleepWhenYoureDead.”

In February, the National Brands-owned vodka brand Nitro posted this ad on Facebook and Instagram. The advertising also had the words “3 DAY BENDER” and showed a person in a bikini bending backwards on a stage, with two 1.25L bottles and cans of Nitro.

This ad was taken down after Consumer NZ, and other health agencies, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Several other posts on Nitro’s social media depicted drinking games such as beer pong being played in a swimming pool, and “scissor hands” – where young people are pictured with bottles of alcohol taped to their hands and sculling them.

One of Nitro's Instagram posts.
One of Nitro's Instagram posts.

In July, we complained to the ASA about nine advertisements posted by Nitro. Running from March 2020 to February 2021, we believed these ads promoted excessive alcohol consumption, and unsafe and risky behaviour.

However, due to the updated Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code, the ASA wouldn’t consider seven of the nine complaints because they were posted before 30 June 2020 and had no “meaningfully current audience”.

The two remaining advertisements were settled by the ASA after National Brands agreed to take them down.

In June, the Southern District Health Board and Alcohol Healthwatch also lodged nine complaints about 111 posts on Nitro’s Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Again, the ASA wouldn’t consider any posts displayed before 30 June 2020, which ruled out 101 ads.

National Brands agreed to remove the remaining 10 posts from its social media, and the complaints were settled. The remaining posts, which were put up from February 2018 to 30 June 2021, remain on Nitro’s Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Critics want stronger standards

Since April, an updated Alcohol Advertising and Promotion Code came into effect. It covers new alcohol ads and existing ones from July.

The new code beefs up the rules that advertisers must follow when it comes to promoting alcohol with digital marketing and on social media.

However, this is a voluntary code that’s self-regulated by its members.

Critics claim this doesn’t go far enough and the code should be replaced by stronger statutory standards.

Alcohol Healthwatch executive director Dr Nicki Jackson thinks Nitro Vodka is a prime example of an advertiser pushing the limits.

“This alcohol advertiser, who particularly targets young adult drinkers, has been found to repeatedly breach the voluntary advertising code,” Dr Jackson said.

“We have asked the ASA to routinely monitor their advertising for code compliance, but they are unable to. It clearly shows the code is not worth the paper it is written on.”

In February, the New Zealand Medical Journal published research by Alcohol Healthwatch, which found that over a three-year period just 24% of complaints to the ASA about alcohol advertising were upheld, 40% percent were settled.

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