Ethical? ... Jonathan Brown with one of the offending 'recovery pill' ads on Collins Street.

Ethical? ... Jonathan Brown with one of the offending 'recovery pill' ads on Collins Street. Photo: Ken Irwin

Advertisements for a hangover ‘‘recovery pill’’ that feature images of drunks will be taken down after being found to breach the industry watchdog’s code of ethics.

In one advertisement a seemingly intoxicated man is shown mock wrestling with a colleague on a night out, with the caption, ‘‘In 5 hours, he’ll be pulling levers on a 20 tonne crane - Thank god for Big Night Recovery.’’

The Advertising Standards Bureau labelled the campaign ‘‘irresponsible’’ and said a significant effort had been made in the community to educate people about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.

Another one of the ads, posted on Facebook.

Facebook ... Members of the public were invited to send in photos of their intoxicated friends to win a single-speed bike.

It said the most likely interpretation of the advertisements suggested ‘‘that taking an effervescent vitamin pill will negate the effects of alcohol therefore you can consume as much as you want prior to working’’.

In a statement released as part of the ASB case report Big Night Recovery said it had taken steps to discontinue the advertisements.

‘‘We apologise to all complainants and stress that it was not our intention to offend,’’ it said. ‘‘We do not intend to use the advertisements in this current form in the future.’’

‘‘We see these ads as humorous and thought everyone else would see them that way. In all honesty the ads are having a poke at the people who turn up to work hungover, or not at all, that costs the economy billions of dollars every year.

‘‘Is the person in the ad going to be actually performing the duties described in the ad? Absolutely not! It is the thought that they might be. The message is certainly not to encourage alcohol consumption, in fact the opposite. The sheer thought of this person performing any type of manual labour is disturbing.’’

The campaign came to the bureau’s attention after a number of people complained about the advertisements, which appeared in newspapers, posters and on Big Night Recovery’s Facebook page.

Jonathan Brown, 23, took a photo of a poster on his mobile phone before lodging a complaint on March 30.

One complainant said they initially thought the campaign was a joke as part of the comedy festival.

As an industry-funded body, the ASB has no enforcement powers, but its code of ethics forbids advertising that is ‘‘contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety’’.

The ASB board, which includes former Democrats leader Natasha Stott Despoja, met last Wednesday and its ruling that the Big Night Recovery campaign be modified or discontinued was released earlier today.

The poster campaign was scheduled to end on April 6, but some advertisements were still up at the end of last week.

Greta Donaldson, who handled the publicity for the launch of Big Night Recovery but had no involvement in the marketing campaign said the product ‘‘is not responsible for people going out and binge drinking and the whole problems of society”, although she admitted being a bit surprised when she first saw the ads.

Nick Stump, who chairs a board on drugs in the construction industry, objected to the reference in the ad to driving a crane with a hangover.

“This concept that you could drink to excess, take something and then drive a 20-tonne crane is just beyond any standard in advertising and in fact downright dangerous,” Mr Stump said.

Two directors of Billy Hunt Pty Ltd, trading as Big Night Recovery, Darryl and Stephanie Griffiths, refused to answer a list of questions about the advertising and the competition, including whether images of people out drinking had been used without their consent.

The company is also running a competition which invites members of the public to send in photos of their intoxicated friends to win a single-speed bike.It is unclear whether images entered in the competition have been used beyond Facebook in the poster and newspaper advertisements.

In its statement to the ASB, Big Night Recovery said, ‘‘the images used in the advertisements are real people. These are their own images they provided to us free of charge’’.

The ASB spokesperson said the Facebook element of the campaign is still under consideration.

The national Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, said irrespective of whether the advertisements breached industry guidelines, it ‘‘demonstrates the ease with which personal information can be exchanged and published in the digital age’’.

‘‘I would remind people to respect the privacy of their friends and consider the impact that their actions could have on someone else’s reputation,” he said.

The company’s privacy policy states that anything uploaded to its website becomes the property and copyright of Big Night Recovery.

And the competition rules state it is the entrant’s responsibility to obtain the consent of the people featured in the photos they submit.

The company may not be covered by the federal Privacy Act however, if it is a small business with annual turnover of less than $3 million and does not meet a number of exceptions.