On the 23rd of February the French highest judiciary instance, “la court de cassation” concluded that the advertising campaign launched by the Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux (CIVB) in 2004 is in breach with the the Loi Evin. Just about everything to do with this decision is weird in a sad way. I would like to elaborate a little on the impact/importance of this decision and explain the French regulations regarding advertising of alcoholic beverages.
The Loi Evin controls advertising of tobacco and alcohol in France and was passed in January 1991. It stipulates that all drinks over 1.2 per cent alcohol by volume are considered as alcoholic beverages. Places and media where advertising is authorised are defined and no advertising should be targeted at young people. Advertising is permitted only in the press, billboards, on radio channels (under precise conditions), at special events or places such as wine fairs and wine museums. When advertising is permitted, its messages and images should only refer to the qualities of the products including alcohol degree, origin, composition, means of production and patterns of consumption. The following health message must be included on each advertisement ”l’abus d’alcool est dangereux pour la santé“. (alcohol abuse is a health hazard)
The 2004 CIVB advert showed a picture of well dressed, youngish wine professionals looking happy and holding a glass of wine and the following slogan: “Discover our Bordeaux winemakers (personalities)” and the corollary statement “Drink less, but drink better”.
The ANPAA, (l’Association nationale de prévention de l’alcoolisme et addictologie) felt that the campaign enticed people to consume Bordeaux wine and took the CIVB to court in 2005. In 2006 the court ruled in favour of the CIVB, a decision which was reinforced by the court of appeal in 2010 as they felt that the campaign did not incite people to consume alcohol in an excessive or abusive way but rather was trying to present it’s subject, Bordeaux wine, in a a favourable light in order to capture the audience.
After they lost the appeal the ANPAA went to the court of cassation who overruled the court of appeal on the basis that the campaign aimed to promote an image of friendliness associated with Bordeaux wines which was likely to encourage consumers to drink Bordeaux wine.
Two days ago Eric Andrieu, a French lawyer, questioned the decision of the court de cassation as he feels that in essence the base of any advertising campaign is to encourage people to purchase and consume the advertised products. And as no excessive or abusive alcohol consumption is promoted he feels the court of appeal was correct in allowing the campaign. For now, the case has once again been referred back to a court in Paris.
The most interesting part for me is that this campaign has long finished yet it is still being the subject of several legal battles, which implies the issue goes deeper than the actual campaign and the impact it could have had. It seems that ANPAA would like to set a precedence preventing any alcoholic advertising with an implication of enjoyment or pleasure. This would be “bad” news for the wine industry as at least still today wine consumption is intrinsically interwoven with the French food culture – where people take pleasure from savouring their meal and the accompanying glass of wine. However cultural mores do change and the wine consumption in France has already been reduced significantly in the last 20 years. If the court will rule that taking pleasure from a glass of Bordeaux entices abusive alcoholic behaviour, it will probably eliminate any further advertising campaigns linking wine consumption and pleasure. This eventually could lead to a further alienation of wine and wine consumption in French culture. Bearing in mind that France is one of the largest wine producers in the world this would, in my opinion, really give a new meaning to the term “French Paradox“.