This week, 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 European Union.
Monday the 16th of April, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) issued a press release, an excerpt of which follows here:
Under the Responsible Marketing Pact, AB InBev, Bacardi, Brown-Forman, Carlsberg, Diageo, Heineken, Pernod Ricard and SAB Miller, which together represent a majority of European alcohol advertising spend, will work with the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), EU and national associations to agree and implement common standards for responsible advertising and marketing aimed at adults of legal purchase age, which will be subject to external scrutiny through independent monitoring and public reporting.
For the first time ever, the Responsible Marketing Pact will create common standards supported by major beer, wine and spirits producers throughout the EU to:
- Prevent minors from inadvertently seeing alcohol beverage marketing communications on social media. This will include common standards for effective agecontrols, Facebook sponsored stories, user-generated content, sharing/forwarding functionality, etc.
- Set a common adult demographic standard for alcohol beverage marketing communications across all media, thereby limiting undue exposure of minors to drinks ads. This will take the form of a common baseline standard that ads may only be placed in media where at least 70% of the audience is reasonably expected to be above legal purchase age.
- Prohibit any alcohol beverage marketing communications that might be particularly attractive to minors by ensuring that the content of ads appeals primarily to adults. The initiative will provide consistent guidelines and enforcement in both letter and spirit of rules to ensure ads primarily appeal to adults of the legal purchase age.
Reaction from EUCAM
Essentially, this marketing pact is not new, most important elements have already been established in each sector. The Brewers of Europe and the spirits producers organized within the EFRD already have implemented similar voluntary rules. Key points in this new marketing pact have already proven to be ineffective.
Key points of these codes (and also this new code) is the proportional standard which restricts alcohol marketing to an audience of more than 30% minors. This percentage does not protect minors from overexposure. The relative number of minors in Europe is 16% and the percentage of youngsters in the age at risk (12-17 years) is not even 6%. In practice, this means that enormous amounts of youngsters can still be reached.
The other point in the codes restrict alcohol marketing from being particularly attractive to minors. The problem is that alcohol ads are ofton attractive to both minors as well as young adults.
Timing is everything, and the release of this press release one week before the European Alcohol and Health Forum is no coincidence. Results of the independent monitoring exercises co-funded by the EC, that will be released next week, show that both the proportional standard and this content restriction are not able to protect young people from exposure to large volumes of attractive alcohol advertisements. A clear recommendation of this AMMIE (Alcohol Marketing Monitoring in Europe) project says that governments should not rely on these window dressing exercises of the alcohol industry, but should take action to protect their youngsters by banning alcohol advertising.