Social Media Is Murky Area For Marketers of Alcohol


“Get drunk” reads a comment from a man named Jeffrey Dale Hoover Sr. on Coors Light’s Facebook page.

The dictate, needless to say, is not the sort of thing that an alcohol brand would want to promote, even though Hoover’s decree was entered on July 31 and, as of last week, was still on the site. Meanwhile, on Bud Light Lime’s page, a fan named Jim Lenz confesses, “I have a problem having just one.”

Such are the perils of social media marketing for purveyors of alcoholic beverages. Though, for some time now, brands have self-policed their sites by forcing visitors to enter their dates of birth in order to get past the outer wall, Facebook—and Twitter especially—seem to leave more doors ajar, allowing minors to wander into the boozy realms and messages such as Hoover’s to proliferate.

Not surprisingly, both the FTC and consumer watchdog groups are also looking closely at how marketers of alcohol brands are behaving on social media. “Facebook has some age barriers that are easily gotten around,” said Michele Simon, research and policy director of the Marin Institute, which keeps an eagle eye on the alcohol industry. Marin is calling for the removal of all promotional content posted on Facebook by alcohol companies.

Facebook’s policy is that all alcohol ads should be aimed at consumers whose registered birth dates put them in the legal drinking age. Facebook also bars such advertising from attempting to appeal to minors or show any stages of intoxication.

Despite those restrictions, FTC attorney Janet Evans—who oversees alcohol ads—said she regularly combs Facebook sites in search of minors who’ve lied about their ages.

Continue to next page →