FTC Commends Liquor Ad Practices

Alcohol marketers and their agencies breathed a sigh of relief last week following the release of a federal study that concludes the industry is doing a good job of not targeting underage drinkers.
Nonetheless, the Federal Trade Commission recommended the industry avoid placing ads in media where more than half the audience is under 21. Ad agencies say that is already being done. “Agencies are not looking for an environment that is going to raise the ire of Congress,” said one media buyer for a national shop.
The FTC also wants to create third-party boards to review ad content, but some see that as unlikely. While the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. said it will “sit down at any time with the brewers and vintners,” the Beer Institute considers any additional processes “redundant.”
Anheuser-Busch, one of the eight largest alcohol advertisers ordered by the FTC to provide information on their marketing practices last year, sees little need to adopt any of the report’s recommendations.
“The FTC validated that industry self-regulation is working,” A-B group vice president Stephen Lambright said in a statement. “Beer advertising is already comprehensively reviewed and scrutinized, we see no value in adding additional layers to the process.”
The report stems from incidents in 1995 and 1996 when A-B and Miller Brewing yanked ads from MTV because they were unable to control when the spots ran.
The report, which was two years in the making, calls for no legislation because the FTC recognizes that partial or total ad bans would raise First Amendment concerns.
John Kamp, svp at the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said determining what ads appeal to kids is subjective and will always spark disagreement. “We wouldn’t want to see all advertising lowered to the level of the sandbox.”