Alcohol brands using Facebook Sponsored Stories risk sanction

Facebook’s Sponsored Stories ad formats are under review by the advertising watchdog for potentially breaching advertising codes around alcohol advertising.

Sponsored Stories ads, which launched in January, show information about your friends who have interacted with a brand.

The ads have been found to breach the Committee of Advertising Practice’s code because although they may not be served to people under 18, they may include images of friends who are or look under 25.

The CAP code stipulates: “Alcohol advertisements must not feature in a significant role anyone who is, or seems to be, under 25 and must not feature children.”

An Advertising Standards Authority spokesman says: “Alcohol ads are subject to very strict rules in the advertising codes, and advertisers should act responsibly and take great care when considering whether or not to place ads of this nature.

“In the absence of an ASA adjudication that covers this particular marketing technique, CAP will be seeking a view from the General Media Panel, following which the Committee will consider if guidance is needed.”

A Facebook spokeswoman says: “We are engaged in a constructive dialogue with the ASA about the evolution of marketing online and the relevant codes and guidance for advertisers.”

TBG Digital, which runs ads on Facebook for three major alcohol brands – Diageo, Heineken and Brown-Forman – says it had paused using Sponsored Stories in the UK for the brands.

CEO Simon Mansell says: “We have three global alcohol brands so we have to be aware of the regulations in each market. We spotted it early and have paused alcohol brands on Sponsored Stories in the UK.

“A very fast-moving platform like Facebook alongside a regulatory culture means you have to move fast. You have to work very closely with platforms like Facebook to know when things are coming up and respond appropriately,” he added.

According to ComScore, alcohol brands accounted for 1.7 million ad impressions on social networks in the UK in May 2011, of which Facebook would have a high share.

This story first appeared on New Media Age. For more digital stories and analysis from NMA click here now

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