FTC Considers 3rd Party Review for Alcohol Ads

Feds Want ‘Self-Regulation That Has Teeth’; Single Code Floated
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Clues surfaced last week about the contents of a congressionally ordered Federal Trade Commission report on alcohol advertising and underage drinking.
FTC officials may recommend that alcohol marketers establish a third-party board to review advertising complaints, said C. Lee Peeler, associate director of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices, at a meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General. “Those are issues we have covered in the report,” Peeler said. “We support industry self-regulation that has teeth.”
Also floated on the Hill last week was the concept of a single voluntary code of conduct for alcohol advertisers. Currently, the industry follows three different codes. “I sincerely hope that some type of marketing agreement can be reached between the beer, wine and spirits industries,” Rep. W.J. “Billy” Tauzin, R-La., chairman of the House subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection, said in a letter to the FTC.
That idea did not appear likely to bear fruit last week. While distillers praised Tauzin’s proposal, beer and wine officials expressed disapproval.
“All beverage alcohol ads should be held to the same responsible standards,” said Lisa M. Hawkins, a representative for the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.
Beer officials consider their products to be distinct from wine and liquor. “Beer is marketed and sold in a different way and our code has worked very well,” said Jeff Becker, vice president of alcohol issues at the Beer Institute.
Added John De Luca, CEO of the Wine Institute, “We don’t believe one code captures our diverse history, tradition and culture.”
The report is due in April.
Liquor marketers spent $1.2 billion on ads last year, up 9.1 percent from 1997. Industry-wide advertising has increased since a self-imposed ban on TV and radio ended in 1996.
Last August, the FTC ordered eight major spirits companies to report whether the industry was sufficiently discouraging drinking among underage consumers.