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Alcohol Advertising in Digital Media, Part 4: Industry Self-Regulation

Alcohol beverage suppliers were among the first U.S. business sectors to embrace self-regulation of advertising and marketing in the 1930s and 1940s.  Voluntary codes have evolved from simple commitments to truthful advertising to comprehensive guidance documents containing mechanisms for independent review of consumer complaints.

Compliance with voluntary industry codes does not absolve an advertiser from compliance with laws and regulations covered in Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.  The codes cover areas that would be difficult for government to regulate such as non-misleading advertising content, which enjoys significant First Amendment protection.  The codes also provide best practices in minimizing exposure of persons under the legal drinking age to alcohol advertising.

As indicated in Part 1 of this series, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) views compliance with voluntary codes as an essential part of an alcohol beverage advertising and marketing function.  A detailed FTC review of advertising practices initiated in 2012 will likely result in a report to Congress by the end of 2013.  That report will include a detailed analysis of digital advertising activities and expenditures along with recommendations for future code enhancements.

The codes subject the digital marketing space to the same list of traditional “dos and don’ts” in advertising content that apply to all other media.  Beyond those fundamentals, digital advertising is subject to unique placement and audience measurement requirements that require communication with host networks and/or advance research on the audience demographics of traditional web sites or networks.

Voluntary industry codes are developed and disseminated by trade associations for distillers, vintners, and brewers.  Similar guidelines exist across all codes for advertising content.  Audience demographic standards are included in the codes of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Beer Institute and Wine Institute.  Those standards are the same as they are based on U.S. Census data.  Links to major industry codes and examples of media policies follow:

Beer Institute Advertising and Marketing Code and Buying Guidelines

Brewers Association Advertising Code

Distilled Spirits Council of the United States Code of Responsible Practices and Note on Responsible Digital Marketing Communications

Facebook Alcohol Advertising Policy

Google Alcohol Advertising Policy

Wine Institute Code of Advertising Standards

See Previous Parts of this Article: 

Alcohol Advertising in Digital Media, Part 2: Federal Regulation

Alcohol Advertising in Digital Media, Part 3: State Regulation

© 2019 McDermott Will & Emery

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About this Author

Arthur J. DeCelle, alcohol beverage regulation attorney, McDermott Will law firm
Counsel

Arthur J. DeCelle is counsel in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Washington, D.C., office.  He focuses his practice on alcohol beverage regulation at all levels of government and on legal and public policy challenges facing heavily regulated industries.

Prior to joining McDermott, Art was the general counsel of the Beer Institute for 16 years.  From 1981 to 1984, Art held senior staff positions in the U.S. House of Representatives and worked on several federal political campaigns....

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