Status Update for Alcohol Advertising

17 October, 2011 by

By Andrew Starke

Leading US and European spirits producers have agreed on a common approach to their self-regulation of digital and social media in the world’s largest advertising markets.

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The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) has issued new guidelines for responsible alcohol advertising and marketing on social networking sites and other digital communications platforms in a move that may have an impact on the local market.

The guidelines apply to all branded digital marketing communications, including social networking sites, websites, blogs, mobile communications and other applications.

The self-regulation targets were developed jointly by DISCUS and the European Forum for Responsible Drinking (EFRD), an alliance of Europe’s leading spirits companies.

Key points are:

  • Focus on promoting responsible drinking and consistent age checking,
  • Brand pages on social media sites to be monitored and inappropriate user-generated content removed,
  • European producers report on their commitments and update their standards to remain in vanguard of self-regulation.

In what is a first in the industry, this collaboration by the European Forum and DISCUS is a joint effort to provide a common and consistent approach to responsible advertising through social media.

“Digital marketing is becoming increasingly important in our engagement with consumers,” said EFRD Chairman, Alan Butler.

“These new guidelines will ensure that we apply the same high standards to all new media channels and technologies including social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.”

The guidelines state that spirits marketers will:

  • Restrict access to official brand pages for users under 18 years old on social networking sites e.g. Facebook (based on registration information). When such registration does not exist, age affirmation mechanisms will be used prior to direct interaction with a consumer,
  • On channels not controlled by spirits marketers, only place advertising if the audience data shows more than 70 percent of viewers are above 18 years old,
  • Monitor brand pages on social networking sites to remove inappropriate user-generated content within 48 hours,
  • Display clear privacy policies that ensure compliance with data protection and privacy rules and provide for a speedy unsubscribe process in direct marketing, eg e-newsletters,
  • Include responsible drinking messages, preferably in the form of a consumer information website address in digital marketing communications, wherever practicable,
  • Continue using age-checks on brand websites’ access pages with date of birth and country of residence, to comply with national rules.

Recognising that technology is constantly evolving, these new guidelines will be reviewed regularly and updated as needed.

Distilled Spirits Council President Peter Cressy said, “Social media has become an increasingly important marketing channel to reach adult consumers of legal purchase age. These new digital guidelines reflect our companies’ strong commitment to extend their responsible marketing practices to these emerging media platforms.”

To read the position of the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia (DSICA), click here and scroll down to 'Websites and emerging media'.