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FTC Report Gives Alcohol Advertisers Good Grade

The Federal Trade Commission said the alcohol industry -- beer, wine and distilled spirits -- generally succeeded in targeting its advertising toward adults, but it is recommending that self-regulatory guidelines for TV and others be extended to the Internet and said it will more regularly check up on how the industry is complying with its self-regulatory benchmarks.

A new report from the FTC released Thursday found that the vast majority (92) of alcohol ads for the period studied (the first six months of 2006) were placed in media with at least 70% of the audience being at least 21 years old (70/21), which is the alcohol industry's self-regulatory ad standard.

In addition, 97% of the total advertising impressions generated by alcohol ads met that 70/21 standard (that's because the 8% that missed the mark were in media with smaller audiences).

"It is evident that the 12 major suppliers have engaged in good-faith efforts to respond to the FTC’s earlier recommendations, implementing the 70% placement standard for print and broadcast media and adopting systems of external review," the commission said. It did not recommend changing the 70/21 threshhold.

“The FTC has stated clearly that the spirits industry has done an excellent job in ensuring that its advertising and marketing is directed to adults,” Distilled Spirits Council president Peter H. Cressy said in response to the report. “Since 2003, we have instituted transparent public reports, rigorous audits and a new buying guideline for internet/digital media, which have significantly contributed to the high standard cited in today’s announcement.”

In the early 2000s, the FTC pushed the alcohol industry to adopt the 70/21 standard (up from 50%) and base it on reliable audience-composition data.

While 70/21 does not yet apply to online advertising, the FTC said it should. The commission also said it would change its oversight from informal inquiries and periodic studies to annual and compulsory collection of information on advertising and marketing from a handful of suppliers.