Heineken exploits the weakness of the Dutch advertising code

1 May 2018

Heineken exploits the weakness of the Dutch advertising code Commercial with Sjinkie Knegt, a famous Dutch Olympic short track skater, may not be advertised on TV, so Heineken chooses social media as an alternative.

The Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP has filed a complaint about an advertising commercial from Heineken and Samsung that was recorded in the Holland Heineken House in Gangneung in February. The complaint has been submitted to the Advertising Code Committee. In the advertisement, which was broadcasted via social media, short track skater Sjinkie Knegt, is surprised by a visit from his father and his sister arranged by Heineken and Samsung. The logo of the Holland Heineken House is always prominently displayed. The commercial also ends with, among other things, that logo.

Why a complaint against this Heineken advertisement?
Top athletes may not be hired for alcohol advertising via radio, cinema and television commercials according to the Dutch Advertising Code for Alcoholic Beverages (Article 30, third paragraph). This rule is set by the alcohol industry itself (self-regulation). Top athletes should also not be displayed on packaging or labels. These regulations prevent minors who see top athletes in alcohol advertising messages, being encouraged to drink alcohol.

Advertising Code Commission rejects complaint: advertising via social media differs from television advertising and hardly reaches minors
The Advertising Code Commission rejected the complaint of STAP because the commercial with Sjinkie Knegt was not broadcasted via television but via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. In other words: if the commercial had been broadcasted via television or cinema, Heineken would have been sanctioned. As an additional argument, the Advertising Code Commission adds that due to the restrictive measures imposed, this advertisement hardly reaches minors and can therefore not be compared with television advertising. However, STAP discovered that the commercial with Sjinkie Knegt has been viewed via Twitter 593,593 times and via YouTube 567,328 times. The exposure via Facebook could not be verified by STAP. The commercial is posted on Twitter and YouTube around 6:30 PM, and that is precisely the time at which alcohol advertising via television and radio is prohibited according to the Dutch Media Act.

Wim van Dalen, director of STAP: "The Advertising Code Committee has literally taken the existing regulations through which Heineken gets away with it. I blame Heineken for knowingly putting an alcohol advertisement on social media at a time when many minors are being reached. The Heineken campaign and the Advertising Committee's ruling show that the existing self-regulation on alcohol advertising is easy to circumvent."

Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP
Ir. W.E. van Dalen, director
030-6565041 / 06 53295544;

The commercial (in Dutch) on YouTube:
The commercial (in Dutch) on Twitter (Feb. 22):


Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP
P.O. Box 9769
3506 GT Utrecht
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30-6565041
F: +31 (0)30-6565043