World’s spirits producers agree common self-regulation standards

The advertising of spirits drinks through social networking sites, blogs, mobile apps and user-generated content is to be subject to new guidelines agreed and published recently by the top spirits producers in Europe and the US.

The standards, which take a common approach to self-regulation of digital and social media in the world’s largest advertising markets, primarily focus on promoting responsible drinking and consistent age-checking.
New guidelines (applicable from 30th September) cover all forms of digital marketing and in what is a first in the industry, this collaboration by the European Forum for Responsible Drinking (EFRD) and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) represents a joint effort to provide a common and consistent approach to responsible advertising through social media.
In recognition of the fast-changing nature of digital media, the revised standards now state a clear set of principles to be applied to current and emerging digital media, future-proofing guidelines for the marketing of spirit drinks and aims to offset possible challenges from those who’d like to see more regulation in social media.
“Digital marketing is becoming increasingly important in our engagement with consumers,” EFRD Chairman Alan Butler commented, “These new guidelines will ensure that we apply the same high standards to all new media channels and technologies such as mobile applications or social media platforms such as Facebook.”
The guidelines state that spirits marketers will:
·       restrict access to official brand pages for users under 18 years-old on social networking sites eg 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 per cent 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 (eg www.responsibledrinking.eu)

·      Continue using age-checks on brand websites’ access pages with date of birth and country of residence to comply with national rules.
The EFRD also published the results of an extensive independent monitoring programme assessing the spirits industry’s implementation of one its key responsible marketing commitments: only placing commercial communications in media where more than 70 per cent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 18 years or older.
The report, prepared by Accenture Media Management, measures the accuracy of forecast audience profile data in complying with the 70/30 rule. Accenture reviewed over 50,000 TV spots across a sample of seven EU countries and spirits advertising in the print media in six countries. While all media buying by member companies must comply with the rule on the basis of audience forecasts, the ex-post audience analysis showed that over 96 per cent of TV ads and 100 per cent of magazine ads were appropriately placed in media where more than 70 per cent of the audience were above legal purchase age.

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