Retro designs that evoke nostalgia by celebrating the sweets, clothes and cartoons of yesteryear have seen several drinks fall foul of alcohol marketing rules, according to the Portman Group.

Marketers must be careful about using designs that appeal to an adult’s inner child, because they may inadvertently also appeal to children today, said Jenny Watson OBE, chair of the group’s Independent Complaints Panel.

Chief executive John Timothy said: “Marketing rules aren’t there to stifle innovation but to protect vulnerable consumers and drive up standards. If in doubt we are here to offer free and fast advice on any packaging and labelling queries. A large part of our work focuses on giving producers advice and guidance to prevent problems occurring.

“We play an important role within a functioning and effective alcohol market and we are constantly making sure that our rules stay updated and relevant. That’s why we are currently consulting on our Code of Practice and asking for views from across the industry and wider stakeholders.”    

The Portman Group receives plenty of complaints throughout the year, and the most common gripes concern drinks that might appeal to under-18s or drinks that do not explicitly make clear that they are alcoholic.

It dealt with almost 500 requests for marketing advice in 2017, and the majority of them were related to packaging. It also trained 621 industry insiders online and in person.