The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled social media advertisements for a spirits brand founded by a reality TV star used "sex to sell an unrelated product".
Ketonic Vodka, co-founded in February by Nazanin "Naz" Khanjani, a former contestant on reality TV shows The Bachelor NZ and Dancing With The Stars, which sells coconut water and vodka mix RTDs, received complaints about the nature of its advertisements.
The advertisements posted on Ketonic Vodka's Facebook and Instagram pages and on its website with Khanjani in fitness gear and separately in swimsuits with the drink and text that promoted "sexy taste", "low carb" and "low sugar" qualities were the subject of a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The complainant was concerned the ads implied there were health benefits and sexual and social success that could be gained by the consumption of the drink. The complainant was also concerned that the Ketonic Vodka website was not age-gated.
The complaint was subsequently ruled as upheld in part, not upheld in part and settled.
The Complaints Board ruled two of the complaints about the Facebook advertisements and one of the Instagram posts were not upheld. Two others relating to Facebook and Instagram ads were upheld.
"The advertisements which were upheld use sex to sell an unrelated product and imply drinking Ketonic Vodka will make you socially successful by being 'the life of the party'," the Complaints Board said in the ASA decision.
Upheld complaints included one ad which showed a photo of Khanjani wearing shorts and holding a bottle of vodka. The caption said: "Want to know what sexy tastes like? ... Come and meet Naz and have a taste."
The sexual imagery and language referring to "taste" was not appropriate and "sexual imagery was being used to advertise an unrelated product", the ASA ruled.
Another included a photo of Khanjani in exercise gear with the words "Taste sexy".
The Complaints Board said it agreed with the complainant in that the consumer takeout of the advertisements was "a new sexy vodka drink was being promoted, that it is healthier than other drinks because it has fewer calories".
The board agreed that some consumers may associate the name of the drink with the "ketogenic diet", a low-carb high-fat diet.
The ASA, however, ruled that the ads did not promote alcohol as an attractive lifestyle choice or suggest that the success of a social occasion depended on the consumption of alcohol, as the complainant had initially claimed.
In the decision, the ASA said Ketonic Vodka had since deleted some of the posts from its Facebook and Instagram pages. It had also added a statement to its website, which stated: "By clicking on this website you are acknowledging that you are over 18 years of age" in regards to the complaint of the website not being age-gated.
The board, however, acknowledged a "more robust form of age verification is to require a visitor to enter their date of birth".
"The Complaints Board noted the Advertiser had made some changes to its advertising following this complaint but had not responded to a subsequent letter from the ASA requesting comment on whether the advertisements complied with Rule 1 (c) Decency and Offensiveness of the Advertising Standards Code."
Khanjani is a director of Consuume Limited, the entity behind the Ketonic Vodka brand.
Consuume Limited director Garth Yaki Alofa made a statement on behalf of Khanjani and Ketonic Vodka. He said the company had made appropriate changes in its marketing strategy to comply with ASA guidelines.
"A new senior management process has also been put into place to avoid breach of the ASA in future."