Time Out magazine has been ordered to cease publishing an advert for "London's Biggest Pub Crawl" after the advertising watchdog declared it was "socially irresponsible".
The sales promotion on the "Time Out Offers" area of the website www.timeout.com advertised the 1 Big Night Out event, which offered a free drink in five different venues in London for a £7.50 ticket, plus discounts on other drinks bought throughout the night.
The advert concluded with the line: "When it's time to party, you should party hard."
A complaint received by the Advertising Standards Agency said the advert was socially irresponsible because it condoned excessive or immoderate drinking, particularly in young people, and that it breached the advertising code, because it promoted an alcohol-related product and was likely to appeal to people under the age of 18 years.
Solicitors acting on behalf of Time Out said the free drink offer did not have to be alcoholic and that according to Drink Aware, a single shot of a spirit equated to one unit of alcohol, so if everyone had a single shot for each of their free drinks, this would fall short of the six units considered to be binge drinking for women and eight units for men.
They also highlighted that the terms of website use for Time Out Offers stated users must be over 18 years of age, and that offers were only available to registered users over that age. The advert also didn't show any images of people drinking alcohol.
Despite the spirited defence, the ASA found the advert to be socially irresponsible on the grounds that most people would opt for wine or beer with their free drinks, rather than single shots, and would therefore be over the binge drinking limit.
The judgment read: "The event was described in the headline as "London's biggest pub crawl" and contained references to "a big night out", "party animals" and "massive discounts" on drinks purchased, as well as an invitation to "neck some top-quality grog". We considered this language gave the impression that 1 Big Night Out was an occasion on which large amounts of alcohol might be consumed.
"We noted the ad promoted "massive discounts" on drinks bought in the venues and stated participants would pay "no more than £2.50 for selected beers or £3.50 for cocktails". We considered it was likely that customers purchasing this offer would expect to buy alcohol at these discounted rates as well as receiving their five free drink.
"Because of the large amount of alcohol which could be drunk as part of this promotion, and because we considered the language of the ad condoned an approach of excessive or immoderate drinking, we concluded this ad was socially irresponsible."
The watchdog ruled the ad must not appear again in its current form, and told Time Out to ensure its advertising did not condone excessive or immoderate drinking, and that people shown drinking or playing a significant role in their ads were not, and did not seem to be, under the age of 25 in future.