Brewers and distillers today announced major changes to their advertising guidelines on the heels of two new reports on underage drinking from the Federal Trade Commission and the National Academy of Science.
In the biggest change, the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. and the Beer Institute announced they will only buy advertising in media that has an audience that is 70% adult, up from the current 51%. The new figure could mean some TV shows and magazines might have fewer beer ads and could make attracting a teen audience less desirable to media programmers, but both alcohol groups said the ad changes would be very limited.
The beer industry several years ago pulled its ads off MTV and each group said most of its alcohol ads already reach the 70% target.
The reports from the FTC and the Academy of Science, were both requested by Congress, though in separate actions. Congress asked the FTC to see if alcohol marketing had significantly changed since its 1999 report suggesting more needed to be done in self-regulation to pre-review alcohol ads, a recommendation the industry rejected. Congress this time asked the FTC "to study the impact on underage consumers of the significant expansion of new ads for liquor-branded 'alcopops.'"
Alcopops, or flavored malt beverages, have emerged as major products in the past couple of years and were thought to be popular with underage drinkers
The spirits council today said it would initiate a pre-review process for ads, though it wouldn't force its members to use it. Companies could submit ads to a three-member panel for review on age appropriateness and the panel would also review complaints about ads that are running that can't be resolved by the industry's own panel.
The Beer Institute said it had no plans to implement a pre-review process but that it had altered the audience makeup of its ad buys to reflect requests made by the FTC and other groups.
"It just codifies the bulk of what we do," said the institute's president, Jeff Becker.
The FTC said its report "found no evidence of [alcohol companies] targeting underage consumers." It added that alcohol companies had demonstrated improvement since the 1999 report in making sure their ads were better targeted toward adults.
The National Academy report, meanwhile, said alcohol ads are reaching youth and are presented "in a style that is attractive" to young people. The report, however, said that while there has been no "causal" link between alcohol ads and alcohol use, "marketing of products with particular appeal to youth should be reduced." The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit group that conducts research for any department of government.
The academy recommended the government launch a media campaign explaining the danger of underage drinking to adults; alcohol industry associations set industry standards barring messages "that have substantial underage appeal"; and the entertainment industry consider alcohol content in determining ratings.
The academy also recommended "top priority" be given to raising beer taxes.
Posted on aef.com: September 18, 2003
Ira Teinowitz, AdAge.com. September 9, 2003
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