Koalas, kangaroos, sunny hills of Jacob’s Creek, guests feasting at a well-laid table, glasses of water and… empty wine glasses. Such scenes were included in a TV spot promoting the Days of Australia, which was broadcast by TVN in December 2014 at 00:43, in an advertising break during the film presentation of The Godfather. Despite outstanding Australian landscapes presented in the spot , the case wouldn’t be the subject of this article, if it weren’t for the sponsor of the event and the curiosity of one TVN viewer.
As the spot indicated, the sponsor of the Days of Australia was… Dobry Wybór sp. z o.o. – the distributor of Jacob’s Creek Australian wines. The vigilant viewer did not consider this type of spot as merely informing the film was sponsored by a spirits producer (which is permitted, subject to the requirements of the Polish Act on upbringing in sobriety and counteracting alcoholism, referred to below). He thought it to be an advert of wine, which (like any advert of an alcoholic beverage other than beer) is forbidden. Therefore, he filed a complaint with the National Broadcasting Council (KRRiT), which, pursuant to the Broadcasting Act, safeguards compliance with the provisions of the Act – also in terms of advertising – and may impose financial penalties.
On 22 December 2015, the Council issued a decision stating the spot was unlawful and fined TVN PLN 60 000.
The Council was not convinced by TVN’s arguments and explanations invoking Art. 131 section 6 of the Act on upbringing in sobriety and counteracting alcoholism.
In brief, this Article provides a basis for conducting actions on the radio and on TV in the scope of informing about sponsorship regarding sport events, concerts and other mass events by a producer or a distributor of alcoholic beverages containing up to 18% of alcohol. The rules for providing such information are carefully determined – the information has to be limited to only giving the name of the producer or the distributor of the alcoholic beverage and its trademark, and it cannot be presented on TV by a natural person or using an image of an individual.
How was the sponsorship information presented with regard to the Days of Australia? The advert did contain information about the distributor of Jacob’s Creek wine – i.e. Dobry Wybór sp. z o.o. – and the Jacob’s Creek’s trademark. However, further, it also contained a label characteristic for wine bottles of that brand. The Council also pointed out the remaining elements of the spot, which preceded the sponsorship information, i.e. feasting and the lecturer’s voice saying: „The distributor of a new semi-sweet Jacob’s Creek wine has the pleasure in inviting you to the Days of Australia.” The analysis of all these elements of the spot made the Council conclude it went beyond a purely informative message and, in fact, aimed at presenting the product:
It also has to be emphasized that informing about sponsorship should not have included the sequences (showing a kangaroo and sunset in the background, a road sign in the middle of the vineyard with the name Jacob’s Creek, a running stream, fresh fruit on the plate and a feasting group of people in the garden). The construction of the above-mentioned elements is undoubtedly characteristic for adverts. The presented images refer only indirectly to the sponsored event. The Body [i.e. the Council – a note by MB] believes that they aim to evoke a positive association with the presented product and encouraging viewers to buy it, which is specific for adverts.
What does the Council’s decision mean in practice?
We believe this is an important message for the producers and distributors of spirits, as well as for advertising agencies, indicating the Council takes a more rigorous approach to evaluating sponsorship information. So far, the standard was the frame containing information about an event’s sponsorship was preceded by shots not necessarily associated with the event, which presented a rather joyful atmosphere, an impression of sensuality and evoked other positive associations. In light of the Council’s decision, it may be questioned whether such actions are safe and whether broadcasters will agree to showing such content. Therefore, when preparing the sponsorship information, one shall take into account the presented content has to be related to the event and cannot refer to an alcoholic beverage in a way that would emphasize its features or in another way encourage its purchase (e.g. by specifying its features – new, the best, exceptional). It may be assumed that many of such sponsorship frames will be more technical and the possibility to inform about sponsoring by producers/distributors of spirits will lose its attractiveness.
Of course, one has to bear in mind that the decisions of the Council are subject to judicial oversight. Thus, it possible that TVN will challenge the Council’s decision and the Court will not share the Council’s point of view in this case and will repeal the penalty.
We will be informing you about the future developments here on our blog.
Decision of KRRiT 24/2015 dated 22 December 2015 r. – available here