A survey of social media accounts by the Cancer Council has revealed a number of alcohol-related accounts without age gates. The claims highlight the importance for all brewers of any size to be considering age gating and restrictions on not only their websites, but their social media accounts too. The research published in the Public Health Research & Practice Journal looked at the top three beer, wine and spirit companies in Australia, including Carlton & United Breweries, Lion and Coopers, which it says collectively account for 76 per cent of the Australian beer market. Out of 153 Facebook and 151 Instagram accounts were amongst those looked at, which included international accounts. The researchers claimed that age restriction controls were absent for 43 of the Instagram accounts and eight of the Facebook accounts. Out of the beer brands, nine had no age controls on their Instagram accounts, but all had age restrictions on their Facebook accounts. Coopers and Lion each had two accounts which were reportedly not age-restricted. Carlton & United Breweries had the largest number of Instagram accounts without age restriction controls, the survey found. Spirit brands proved to have the least amount of age restriction measures on their social media accounts, with 21 Instagram and 2 Facebook accounts lacking controls.
The research claimed there was a lack of transparency in who is being targeted by alcohol marketers, which “raises questions about what children and young people may be seeing online”. It critiques the ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code, saying that it has no compliance monitoring mechanisms, and that “complaints have been made to the ABAC Scheme about alcohol companies failing to activate age-restriction controls on social networking sites, suggesting that at least some alcohol marketers are not complying with the self-regulatory code”.
The research was undertaken by Cancer Council lobbyists including Hannah Pierce (photo left) and Julia Stafford (photo right), who wrote a report earlier this year confirming that they were some of the major complainants to the ABAC scheme, whilst simultaneously criticising it.
Lion commented saying that it was committed to the responsible marketing of its products and takes its ABAC obligations extremely seriously. “While we understand both Instagram accounts in question were age-gated originally, a process error has seen these removed. We regret this has occurred and acted swiftly to put these settings in place again. We will also introduce new processes to ensure this does not happen again,” a spokesperson said.
John Preston, CEO of the Brewers Association, which represents CUB, Lion and Coopers, said that its members take their obligations seriously when it comes to the responsible marketing of their products. “We only seek to advertise to consumers of legal drinking age, with the objective that they enjoy our products responsibly,” he said. “Our members have a very high level of compliance with ABAC standards and only target 18+ audiences in digital advertising, but one area where more needs to be done to ensure minors are not accidentally exposed to alcohol advertising is appropriate age-gating of social channels. This is a priority.” Preston also said that advertising code ABAC, of which all members of the BA have signed up to, was robust. Harry Jenkins AO, chair of the ABAC Management Committee, reiterated the code requirements. “It is an ABAC Code requirement that alcohol producers, distributors and retailers apply available age restriction controls to all of their digital marketing, including brand accounts on Facebook and Instagram,” he said.
“The ABAC website includes ‘how to’ guides on activating available age restriction controls across various social media platforms at http://www.abac.org.au/about/guidance.”