Alcohol advertising - self-regulation...for the moment

United Kingdom

Recently, leading producers from the beer, wine and spirits sectors launched a comprehensive initiative to strengthen independent advertising self-regulatory schemes for alcohol beverage marketing by establishing a set of ‘common, rigorous standards’ for their marketing communications throughout the EU.

The World Federation of Advertisers (“WFA”) presented the Responsible Marketing Pact at the latest European Commission’s Alcohol and Health Forum meeting.  The Responsible Marketing Pact is a pan-industry response to Commissioner Dalli’s call for further action in responsible advertising, particularly as regards new media and the exposure of underage people.

The Pact involves eight leading alcohol producers as signatories and, as associate partners, the trade organisations of the spirits, wine and beer sectors as well as advertisers and sponsorship associations.  It aims to create common standards throughout the EU to:

  • prevent minors from inadvertently seeing alcohol beverage marketing communications on social media (including common standards for effective age controls, Facebook-sponsored stories, user-generated content, sharing/forwarding functionality);
  • set a common adult demographic standard for alcohol beverage marketing communications across all media, thereby limiting undue exposure of minors to such advertisements. This will take the form of a common baseline standard that advertisements may only be placed in media where at least 70% of the audience is reasonably expected to be above the legal purchase age;
  • prohibit any alcohol beverage marketing communications that might be particularly attractive to minors by ensuring that the content of advertisement appeals primarily to adults. The initiative will provide consistent guidelines and enforcement in both the letter and spirit of the rules to ensure advertisements primarily appeal to adults of the legal purchase age.

The European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing (“EUCAM”) claims, however, that the key elements of this marketing Pact are not new and have already been established in each sector.  The Brewers of Europe and the spirits producers organised within the European Forum for Responsible Drinking (“EFRD”) already have implemented similar voluntary rules. 

It remains to be seen whether the new Pact will prove to be effective.  If it is successful, industry is hopeful that this will avoid the need for legislative reform in this area.