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Will Turkey's Ad-Ban Harm the Booze Industry?

By McCarton Ackerman 06/12/13

Alcohol companies react with fear as the country goes cold turkey on booze advertising.

Traditional "raki" is no longer Turkey's
national drink
Photo via

Alcohol companies are facing economic fears in the wake of Turkey's new law banning alcohol advertising, which President Abdullah Gul signed into place yesterday. Turkish liquor company Yeni Raki ran a newspaper ad showing a hand shaking a glass of alcohol with the words: “Ads are over. Excuse us.” The most recent ad for Turkey’s Efes beer features an unmarked brown bottle and the cryptic message: “Even if we don’t see each other, we’ll know.” Paul Skehan, the director general for distiller trade association spiritsEUROPE, laments that "this law was rushed through at supersonic speeds and there was no consultation of any of the industries affected." The law, which also limits sales of alcohol and even blurs out depictions of drinking on TV, has furthered general unrest in the country, fueling massive protests calling for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's resignation. But Erdogan defends the law, which he says is designed to improve the nation's health and is in line with the 2008 bans on smoking in coffee houses and restaurants. “We did not ban alcohol; we just introduced a new framework," he said last month. "We want to raise a healthy generation." Erdogan has since declared ayran, a salty yogurt drink, to be the national beverage in lieu of the anise-flavored spirit, raki.

The World Health Organization says Turkey's average annual consumption of alcohol is already moderate at 3.4 liters per capita—just above half the global average. And many are skeptical that the ad-ban will even have any impact on drinking in Turkey. “Ad bans are not the way to make people drink less,” says Dominic Lyle, director general of the European Association of Communications Agencies in Brussels. The restrictions are “very much a political move and linked to the views of the government. It’s more about secular versus religious.” Diageo, the world's biggest distiller and home to brands such as Johnnie Walker whiskey and Captain Morgan rum, says in a statement that a “collaborative approach among the industry, government, and third parties would lead to a better outcome.” The Turkish Association of Advertising Agencies declined to comment, because of “deep tension” with the government.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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