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.

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.

Member comments

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11 Oct 2021
Does the ASA have any teeth?

The ASA is not doing it's job very well. If someone complains then obviously they have been offended. If an organisation complains then just as obviously a number of people have been offended, and thankfully Consumer keeps a good watch on advertisers in NZ.

It is time for the ASA to step up and put a stop to this and other campaigns that prey on the young and the vulnerable.

Eva P.
10 Oct 2021
Are you still a pusher if the drug is legal?

At last count just over half of the alcohol industry's revenue came from problem drinkers.

The booze lobby is well aware of the fact that, while the brain is still maturing (up to age 27 in males), regular binge drinking can activate the gene that induces alcoholism. That's epigenetics for you.

So is it any wonder they use any trick in the book to target young people, making it cool to drink to excess?

A drug that's addictive and so damaging to so many should not be allowed to be advertised.

David C.
10 Oct 2021
Why did we allow broadcast advertising in the first place?

The law only changed in 1992 to allow alcohol brand advertising: how about we just say that it's a failed experiment and go back?

Joyce & John
09 Oct 2021
Liquor promotion

The goal of the liquor industry is to sell as much liquor to as many people as possible - their advertising will be directed to this purpose. At least one in four adults has a problem with liquor over-consumption. It is a major factor in domestic violence, poor health, car crashes and mental health issues. 1800 babies are born each year with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder - some 30.000 children right now. Liquor disproportionatly impacts Maori and is another form of colonisation. Alcohol consumption is a serious and devastating public health issue. We have to act by reducing the hours of availability, increase costs per unit of alcohol, remove advertising and all forms of promotion and as a community set out to change our culture to a more positive one

Chris S.
09 Oct 2021
alcohol advertising

The easiest way would be to ban all alcohol advertising - or make them include excruciating photos like for smoking.

Drink and drugs the bane of human society for all time. Of course the ads just represent the true attitude to drinking in NZ. Not a pretty picture.