Social Media Is Murky Area For Marketers of Alcohol


The FTC is planning to release a report in early 2011 tallying the number of such instances. Evans said she favors live monitoring of alcohol-related fan pages by the companies themselves. “They need to take off pictures showing kids in frat T-shirts and delete messages about binge drinking,” she said.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Marin Institute does not believe the FTC’s current monitoring is sufficient. Despite widespread belief to the contrary, booze advertising in other media is not monitored by the FTC; it’s left to the liquor brands to regulate themselves. When it comes to TV, the general rule is that the potential audience for the ad should not have more than 30 percent of its audience under the age of 21. But Marin’s Simon said that’s hardly an effective way to keep beer and liquor ads away from kids’ eyeballs. “Obviously, the [liquor brands are] not advertising on Nickelodeon,” she said. “But [the current standard] still overexposes the content of the ads.”

Likewise, the task of keeping minors away from regular beer and liquor Web sites is also entrusted to self-regulation. But Simon said that the enter-your-birth-date features can be easily cheated—even as alcohol advertisers, for their part, tend to view these filters as impediments to their marketing messages.

Meanwhile, another issue for Marin is Twitter, which does not require its users to enter a date of birth. Though some alcohol marketers, like Smirnoff, don’t put their own age limitations on Twitter, Julian Green, a rep for MillerCoors, said the company makes any potential followers enter their age and those under 21 are rejected. Said Green: “We’re taking baby steps to ensure that any engagement we do is responsible.”