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Advertising Targeted At Minors Under Exacting Scrutiny by FTC

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The Federal Trade Commission, in its fourth major study, has broadened its review to gauge how effective the industry’s voluntary guidelines are in reducing advertising and marketing messages to underage audiences. It has asked fourteen major alcoholic beverage, beer, wine and distilled spirit, advertisers to provide thorough information regarding their use of their digital marketing and data collection practices.

Alcohol advertisers have adopted stricter advertisings procedures, through a self-regulatory process, that is different from the process followed by producers of other products. The latter falls under the jurisdiction of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, to resolve complaints, if any, against their ads. The self-regulatory guidelines followed by alcohol manufacturers require visitors to Web sites to confirm they are 21 or older.

Alcohol beverage manufacturers have to follow a separate set of rules, because they can advertise only on media outlets, where 70 percent of the viewers or readers are 21 years or older. The three main alcoholic beverage industry trade associations also follow measures to comply with these guidelines.

FTC published its first report in September 1999, followed by a report 4 year later in 2003 and then in June 2008. In 2008 it found that 97 percent of “total alcohol advertising impressions” came from ads that met the 70 percent target.

FTC had found in 2008 that companies spent only 2 percent of their advertising budget on Internet advertising, digital promotion and product placement. These days however, companies are showing a marked interest in the booming mobile appliances and social media.

The alcohol industry had recently adopted fresh guidelines that pertain to digital marketing. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States adopted guidelines that are related to marketing on social networking sites and other digital platforms. The Beer Institute also amended its code to incorporate user-generated content and social media.

Janet Evans, an attorney with the FTC’s advertising practices division said the agency decided to initiate the enquiry after receiving comments from the Center for Digital Democracy and the Berkeley Media Studies Group of the Public Health Institute. “We have been doing studies every four to five years and we announced over a year ago that we’d start a new study this year. Ms. Evans said that issues could also include “information collection and the credibility of age registrations.”

Advertisers have been guilty of glamorous depictions of parties, appealing to the younger crowd. The guidelines are intended primarily to reduce the exposure of advertising to those under the legal drinking age of 21 years.

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Advertising Targeted At Minors Under Exacting Scrutiny by FTC by
Authored by: Harrison Barnes