The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is calling on interest groups and the public to have their say on a review of the guidelines for advertisements featuring alcoholic beverages.
New Zealand legislation already provides strict guidelines on what can and cannot be done in alcohol advertising, but the review is part of a regular effort by the ASA to ensure that its guidelines continue to reflect the way products are advertised in the modern media environment.
"This is not about whether advertising alcohol should be legal or not," says ASA chief executive Hilary Souter.
"That's a discussion you need to have with the Government."
Instead, she says, the review's aim is to make sure the ASA isn't missing anything in its efforts to ensure that alcohol advertising observes a high standard of social responsibility – particularly when it comes to children.
That standard has become increasingly difficult to achieve as advertising has moved online – as illustrated by an ASA decision last year, in which a university researcher was able to access Corona advertising while logged into a Facebook profile for someone aged under 18. To its credit, Corona quickly acknowledged a mistake had been made and updated its age verification controls on Facebook.
Souter says Facebook also has strict rules governing how alcohol is advertised on its platforms, doing what it can to ensure younger consumers aren't exposed to the wrong kind of content online.
That said, the online environment is evolving quickly and there could be ways in which ads are slipping through the cracks and reaching eyeballs that shouldn't be targeted.
Souter says the review of the code presents an opportunity for members of the public to provide examples of online ads they're worried about, saying that many of the guidelines have been shaped by real-world examples that have appeared before the board. The guidelines are malleable, bending over time to reflect changing media and social standards.
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The more examples the ASA is able to see, the better equipped it will be to ensure that New Zealand's strict legislative restrictions are reflected in the ads that appear online.
Advertising executive Ahamad Salim has worked on numerous alcohol campaigns over the years and says he isn't concerned by the prospect of a tightening of the rules.
"To be honest, the internal marketing rules of most of the alcohol clients we work with are so much stricter than any country's code," says Salim, group business director at Colenso BBDO.
He says there's far too much at stake for major companies to be pushing the bounds when it comes to online advertising.
"The alcohol industry is already under so much scrutiny, and they don't want to be caught doing the wrong thing."
Salim says that in any industry, alcohol or otherwise, the riskiest advertising rarely comes from big established brands but rather from smaller challengers, who are looking to get noticed in a cluttered market – and this is where you sometimes see mis-steps.
The alcohol industry has already seen an example of that at the ASA this year, with start-up Ketonic vodka being censured by the ASA for using sex to sell its product and for implying that drinking it would make you socially successful.
Looking further ahead, the rules being shaped for alcohol advertising today will also take on greater significance in coming years if recreational cannabis is legalised in this market. There are still many variables and few guarantees, but opportunistic start-up companies will certainly snap at any opportunity to get noticed in the local scene if legislation is liberalised. You can rest assured, though, the fastidious eyes at the ASA will be watching closely if New Zealand media starts to take on a greener hue.
The Greens' attack ad this week mocking Opposition leader Simon Bridges' accent may have come from a different political camp, but its cringeworthiness put it very much in the same bucket as the nonsense National served up last year with its "barbecue" ad criticising KiwiBuild.
At least we now know that bad advertising is one unifying force across New Zealand politics today.
Marketing expert Ben Goodale says this is the type of advertising you get when you try to cut corners.
"Sadly, in both cases, it looks like they are just trying to do stuff on the cheap and aren't getting advice from advertising professionals," says Goodale, who previously operated the agency JustOne.
"There's no finesse, and the ads were crass and needed to be buried as quickly as possible."
Goodale says that if political parties want to create better ads that actually move Kiwis one way or the other, then they need to hand over the tools to someone who knows what they're doing.
"The political parties need to stop thinking that they are advertising professionals simply because they've got a friend who can operate a video camera and can hire a voiceover artist or some cheap talent," says Goodale.
"Both National and the Greens have demonstrated recently that they have no idea how to actually tell a story in an interesting way that doesn't simply polarise and get shut down."
Goodale says that the point of an ad agency is also to protect the client and ensure that terrible ideas don't see the light of day.
"That's an important part of the role of an ad agency," he says.
"They take the raw idea of what a client wants to do, polish it up and make it a campaignable idea that captures the hearts and minds of the public."
Looking in from the outside, Goodale says he struggles to see any discernible strategy with the ads that came out of National and the Greens.
"The BBQ one for instance: was it just a rush of blood to the head? And the Greens? Did they even need to go after Simon Bridges? Might they have been better by focusing on how what is proposed is going to make a positive difference – and what that is – as a start to electrifying New Zealand's car population."
It's one thing to steal headlines with crass advertising, but you have to question whether it's worth the effort if all you do is end up alienating large swathes of the voting public.