FTC Report Gives Props To Alcohol Marketing Self Regulation

The Federal Trade Commission's fourth major study on alcohol industry compliance with self-regulatory marketing guidelines found that 93.1% of all measured media ad placements met the industry's self-regulatory standard (that 70% or more of the measured audience be at least 21).

It also had positive reinforcement for efforts to protect privacy, said the industry was not doing much product placement, and was self-policing its standards

And because those missing the mark were primarily media with smaller audiences, 97% of exposures to alcohol ads were from placements meeting that 70/21 standard.

The biggest chunk of that measured media continued to be broadcast and print, with a combined 31.9% share, followed by 28.6% for promotion, 17.8% for sponsorships and public entertainment, 7.9% for online and digital marketing—up from 2% in 2011—and 6.8% for outdoor and transit.

The report found that alcohol industry members "appear to have considered privacy impacts in the marketing of their products. It appears that, at least in the context of online registration opportunities, alcohol companies generally advise consumers how their information will be used and that they require consumers to opt-in to receive marketing information and consumers can readily opt-out when they want to stop receiving such information. Use of cookies and tracking tools on brand websites appears to be limited to those needed to ensure that only consumers who have stated they are 21 or older can re-enter the site."

Product placement accounted for only one tenth of one percent, said the FTC report, while complaints to the Distilled Spirits Council about ads were resolved through company compliance.

"This report underscores our dedication to high standards, strict compliance and proactive measures to address the new media landscape,” said Distilled Spirits Council president Peter Cressy in a statement. “The FTC report clearly shows that the spirits industry directs its advertising to adults and is a leader in self-regulation.”

The report also had some recommendations, including age-gating on company Web sites, encouraging any medium where compliance falls below 90% to target an audience with a higher 21-plus audience so that it will meet the standard when the ad actually appears, and do more staff training.

“DISCUS will give careful consideration to the recommendations in the report,” Cressy said. “Key to our Code’s success is the willingness to adapt to the changing marketplace and new technology.” 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.