Advertising Alcohol on Social Media: The Marketer's Cheat Sheet

Crystal Cha
Jun 25, 2018 1:48:50 PM

The subject of alcohol advertising has always been a hotly debated one, especially since studies have been able to demonstrate a correlation between the advertising of alcoholic beverages and increased alcohol consumption, especially among youths who were initially non-drinkers. 

In many countries, alcohol advertising on traditional media channels has been outlawed completely. In countries such as Malaysia and Thailand, alcohol advertisers get around this rule by sponsoring music and sporting events. In Sweden, alcohol advertising is banned from radio and television but is still legal in print publications if the alcoholic beverage does not exceed 15 per cent alcohol by volume and 20 per cent of the advertisement's surface includes warning text about the harmful effects of alcohol. In Finland, outdoor alcohol advertising is completely banned - except during large public events, during which mild alcoholic beverages may be advertised.

For drinks brands operating across regions and countries, it is always tricky staying ahead of the new laws and regulations that different countries introduce. 

The growth of social media advertising introduces a whole new ballgame to the regulatory aspect of alcohol advertising. While many countries have rolled out new policies for regulating alcohol advertising online, these regulations and guidelines vary from country to country. 

To help you stay ahead of the latest developments, we've put together a comprehensive list of the current or upcoming alcohol advertising regulations affecting advertising on social media and beyond. 

Disclaimer: BrandBastion is not authorized to provide any legal advice on advertising regulations. The information contained in this post is meant to serve as a summary of existing regulations. If there is any doubt of the clarity of a regulation, this should be verified directly with the sources cited and linked within this article. 

 

US and Canada

  • US - Alcohol brands can only advertise on online platforms where 71.6% of the audience is reasonably expected to be of the legal purchase age: In the USA, the industry self-regulates its own advertising. There are three major bodies promoting alcoholic beverages in the country: 1) the Wine Institute, 2) the Beer Institute, and 3) the Distilled Spirits Council. The content of each institution's code of conduct is largely similar and is voluntary. For all three, the code dictates that alcohol should not be promoted to those under legal drinking age, depict models who may be mistaken for being under legal age, or promote alcohol in a way that underage drinkers might find appealing. In the case of online promotions where it is harder to determine the age of people looking at ads, then "digital marketing communications should be placed only in media where at least 71.6% of the audience is reasonably expected to be of the legal purchase age." Read more >>
  • Canada - Strict content regulation for radio and television: Most of the regulation for alcohol advertising is focused on radio and television advertising, which is regulated under the Radio Regulations and Television Broadcasting Regulations, under the Broadcasting Act. In order to maintain a license to broadcast alcohol ads, brands must adhere to very strict content guidelines. There are no clear regulations for advertising online. However, given that television remains a big portion of alcohol marketers' budgets and given that social media creative is often reused from creative created for television, the stringent broadcasting rules also impact online advertising. Read more >>

 

UK and Europe

  • UK - Advertising should not encourage excessive drinking: In June 2017, the alcohol advertising regulatory body, ASA ruled that an email sent to customers promoting a Prosecco and pizza meal set using the terms "bottomless Prosecco" and "free flowing Prosecco" was contributing to an impression that the alcohol should be consumed in excessive amounts and was in violation of the advertising code. UK's regulatory system is a co-regulatory one, in that guidelines are negotiated with government, consumer complaints are handled independently outside of courts, but all costs are borne by industry. Read more >>
  • Lithuania - No online advertising allowed at all: As of 1 January 2018, the country enforced a total ban of alcohol advertising on all forms of traditional media as well as the Internet, in an effort to curb the heavy alcohol consumption. In 2016, Lithuania was ranked as the third heaviest drinking country in the world. Read more >>
  • Sweden - Ban on commercial alcohol advertising online may come into force in the future: On 15 January 2018, a white paper was presented to the government outlining plans to restrict and regulate alcohol promotion online. The paper focuses on limiting commercial alcohol marketing (i.e. advertising of products will not be allowed), but not outlawing alcohol marketing completely (i.e. showcasing traditional brewing methods may be permitted). Read more >>
  • Finland - Brands are also responsible for user-generated content on their online properties: A ban on certain forms of alcohol marketing common in new media was implemented since 2015. This includes using games, lotteries and contests to promote alcohol. Even user-generated content must be moderated by brands with an online presence, as the ban includes "the use of textual or visual content produced by consumers or content intended to be shared by consumers". Read more >>
  • Norway - A complete ban on all alcohol advertising since 1975, enforceable by law: In 2002, Diageo was been banned from importing or selling any alcohol in Norway for six months, after breaking Norway's strict alcohol promotion laws in its marketing for Smirnoff Ice. Although drinks manufacturers are allowed to market to the trade in Norway, they are not allowed to promote their products to consumers. The country's Social and Health Directorate ruled that certain trade events for the ready-to-drink vodka mix crossed into the public arena. Read more >>
  • Other European countries - Most have strict advertising standards for radio and television, as well as portraying the use of alcohol in a way that is associated with alcohol leading to success or sexuality. However, the regulations on advertising alcohol online are not so clear cut. This, however, may soon change in the near future as regulators and consumers alike begin to realize that online advertising has a significant impact and is making up a bigger and bigger chunk of alcohol brands' marketing mix. The Irish government in 2017 has already urged its European counterparts to consider a total ban on alcohol advertising, saying that children must be protected from an industry whose “primary interest is growing its markets and maximizing profits”. Read more >>

 

Asia Pacific

  • Australia - Advertising should not depict adults who are under 25 years of age: In Australia, while the legal drinking age is 18, regulations state that alcohol advertising should not "depict an adult who is under 25 years of age unless they are not visually prominent or they are not a paid model or actor and are shown ... within an Age Restricted environment". On 16 April, the ABAC (Alcohol Beverage Advertising Code) Scheme upheld a complaint that Charlie's Liquor Barn were using models in its Facebook ads who were under 25 years of age. Charlie's Liquor Barn then had to remove the offending Facebook ads and brief their marketing partners to ensure they were not unknowingly using models below 25 years of age. Australia has a quasi-regulatory system for alcohol marketing: guidelines for marketing have been negotiated with government, consumer complaints are handled independently, but all costs are borne by industry. Read more >>
  • China - Advertising suggesting alcohol helps women be more sexually confident is banned: In June 2018, government media regulators have ordered broadcasters to stop showing ads promoting a sparkly beverage Sawow (3.5% ABV) with the message that drinking alcohol makes women more sexually confident, as they “misguide the development of young people.” Read more >>
  • Thailand - Taking a selfie with a beer could land you in jail: While there have been a number of regulations seeking to curb excessive drinking in Thailand, such as bars being allowed to open only until midnight and a "sin tax" on alcohol, the government has only recently started to enforce seriously the rules related to alcohol promotion listed in its 2008 Alcoholic Beverage Control. Previously, alcohol companies have skirted around the rules which ban them from promoting the consumption of alcohol by using influencers to promote their products on social media. In July 2017, according to Vogue, "police announced their intention to more closely patrol social media and charge those found breaking the law." The Nation reports that arrests were made on 31 July after three girls in revealing outfits posted a five-minute Facebook live video promoting “buy one, get one [free]” beer sale. Read more >>
  • Vietnam - Ministry of Health considering a ban on beer advertisement: According to Viet Nam News: "Advertising beer could soon be a thing of the past after the Ministry of Health proposed calling time on commercials. The plans were revealed yesterday at a conference held to come up with ideas to complete the draft law in an attempt to curb alcohol problems." The draft law also plans to restrict the times during which people are allowed to buy alcohol. Read more >>

 

Africa

  • South Africa -  New bill to ban daytime alcohol adverts and raise the drinking age is being considered: Since early 2018, South Africa is considering the proposed Liquor Amendment Bill, which could result in a ban on alcohol advertisements on television and radio between 6am and 10pm. The bill also includes a proposal to lift the legal drinking age from 18 to 21. According to an opinion piece published in Business Day, "The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) intervention is necessary since SA is among the biggest consumers of alcohol in the world, while foetal alcohol syndrome rates are the highest globally." Read more >>
  • Uganda - Proposed bill attempts to crack down on advertising alcohol to pregnant mothers: In Uganda, alcohol consumption by pregnant women is widespread because of a lack of awareness among these mothers. In 2016, the government proposed a new alcohol-control bill to ban alcohol marketing and require drink manufacturers to produce warning labels. To date, alcohol advertising, sponsorship and distribution in Uganda is poorly regulated, contributing to the growing use of alcohol by pregnant women, as reported by the Global Press Journal. Read more >>

 

In conclusion, alcohol brands need to keep up with changing trends to ensure their advertising stays relevant. Learn more about the key trends that matter in our new report, in which we analyze over 10,300 comments from 26 recent alcohol ads on social media to understand what brands in this space can learn.

 

Are you in an industry with strict regulation around online advertising? Find out how BrandBastion can help you moderate comments on your feeds and keep your social media presence compliant. 

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Disclaimer: BrandBastion is not authorized to provide any legal advice on advertising regulations. The information contained in this post is meant to serve as a summary of existing regulations. If there is any doubt of the clarity of a regulation, this should be verified directly with the sources cited and linked within this article.  

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