New case law concerning advertising of alcoholic beverages on social networks

01 October 2013

Alexandre Vuchot

On 3 July 2013, the Supreme Court of Appeal in France published its judgement against online advertising for alcoholic beverages via social networks. Ricard, a leading drinks company, launched an advertising campaign entitled “One Ricard, many encounters”, across the internet. It also launched a free mobile application, Ricard Mix Code, requiring a Facebook account, showing its video publicity campaign and allowing the user to collect codes which would give them access to recipes for cocktails made with Ricard, which the user could then share on their Facebook page. Another itunes application, Ricard 3D, allowed the user to see a Ricard bottle in 3D. 

Previously, in 2012, following demands from the National Association of Prevention of Alcoholism and Addiction, the Paris Court of Appeal had ordered the retraction of the use of ‘encounters’ associated with Ricard, as well as other elements which were deemed a direct incentive to consume Ricard in order to live a sociable life. The Court decided that the advertisement was directed to catch the attention most likely of a young consumer who would typically be well-versed in new technology. 

The trial judges also applied certain articles from the Public Health Code to the mobile application. Once the application was downloaded by the user, if they wanted to share a recipe on their Facebook by clicking ‘share on my wall’, the following message would appear on their profile: ‘I have discovered the Encounter #20 ATOMIC RICARD. You can also discover Ricard Mix with the app Ricard Mix Codes. Available on Appstore’. The Court of Appeal decided that the appearance of this message was unforeseeable and unexpected by the user. The fact that this message was relayed by a web user towards his network of friends was not considered to stop it from being a publicity campaign, and hence that it was equally contrary to the Public Health Code.