Stella Artois
Stella Artois owner AB InBev is one of the brewers introducing the rules to its marketing

AB InBev, Bacardi, Brown-Forman, Carlsberg, Diageo, Heineken, Pernod Ricard and SAB Miller will work with the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) and national trade associations to establish and implement common standards on social media marketing and age appropriate advertising and scheduling in each of the 27 member states (see below).

Although a voluntary agreement, the move follows pressure from the European Commission’s flagship alcohol harm reduction initiative, the European Alcohol Health Forum (EAHF) to establish a set of harmonised rules across the European Union following concern that standards were fragmented.

The “Responsible Marketing Pact” is a commitment by industry to the EAHF.

It is hoped that rules will be drawn up, incorporated and policed by national self regulatory advertising and trade associations by early 2015. Progress will be independently monitored by Accenture and will be overseen by the EC.

The Responsible Marketing Pact

“Prevent minors from inadvertently seeing alcohol beverage marketing communications on social media” Common standards on age verification, the use of Facebook Sponsored Stories for marketing purposes, user generated content will be established.

“Set a common adult demographic standard for alcohol beverage marketing communications across all media, thereby limiting undue exposure of minors to drinks ads.” A common stipulation that ads may only be placed in media where at least 70% of the audience is reasonably expected to be above 18.

“Prohibit any alcohol beverage marketing communications that might be particularly attractive to minors by ensuring that the content of ads appeals primarily to adults.” Consistent guidelines and enforcement to ensure ads primarily appeal to adults over 18.

In the UK, it is likely that ISBA, the Portman Group and the Advertising Standards Authority will be involved in making sure UK regulation is in line with the common standards.

It is thought that the likely standards, however, are already covered by UK advertising codes so producers will not have to make many changes for the UK market. One possible exception is access to Facebook pages, where no age restrictions exist within advertising codes.

Ian Twinn, head of public affairs at ISBA, says: “UK advertisers welcome this EU initiative from the WFA and the leading European alcohol advertisers. Responsible advertising is at the heart of our message.”

A spokesman for the WFA says it is looking to sign-up more producers and is working with European and national level associations to grow awareness and support for the pact.

Last year, The European Forum for Responsible Drinking and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States announced plans to create a common set of principles for alcohol brands using social media. Work is believed to be ongoing.