The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is requiring 14 major alcoholic beverage producers to provide information about their online marketing. The FTC will use the information for a study that will guide recommendations on how the alcohol industry should regulate itself, both online and offline.
The last time the FTC completed an alcohol marketing study was in 2008, using data from 2005, according to The Kansas City Star. That study found only 1.9 percent of alcohol marketing expenditures went toward Internet efforts.
The marketing landscape has changed dramatically since then, with a much greater emphasis on social media. For example, Bacardi has at least seven Facebook pages, with a total of 1.7 million fans, according to David Jernigan, Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. He notes that Captain Morgan Rum has a video game app for iPhones. Many companies connect with consumers through Twitter.
Jernigan says that outside of regulating “unfair or misleading” advertising, the FTC generally allows the alcohol industry to set its own ad guidelines. According to industry standards, at least 70 percent of the audience for advertising must consist of adults 21 and older. The standards also call for the companies’ Internet sites to include age-screening pages. Jernigan wants alcohol companies to start actively verifying ages, as tobacco companies do on their websites.
According to the FTC, recommendations from past reports have “resulted in agreements by the Beer Institute, the Wine Institute, and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States to adopt: an improved voluntary advertising placement standard; buying guidelines for placing ads on radio, in print, on television, and on the Internet; a requirement that suppliers conduct periodic internal audits of past placements; and systems for external review of complaints about compliance.”