DISCUS Releases New Alcohol Responsibilty Advertising Guidelines for Social and Digital Media

Washington, DC ‘€“ The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) today issued new guidelines for responsible alcohol advertising and marketing on social networking sites and other digital communications platforms, effective September 30.

The guidelines apply to all branded digital marketing communications, including social networking sites, websites, blogs, mobile communications and other applications. The guidelines were developed jointly by DISCUS and the European Forum for Responsible Drinking, an alliance of Europe’€™s leading spirits companies.

The new DISCUS guidelines require:


®· ‘€œAge-gating’€ before direct dialogue between advertisers and consumers;

®· Privacy policies to ensure protections regarding data collection and use of personal information;


®· Regular monitoring of brand pages and sites and removal of inappropriate user-generated content;

®· Clearly identifying brand marketing as such in digital marketing communications/ product promotions such as blogs;

®· Visible instructions urging individuals to forward downloadable digital content only to adults 21+.

Recognizing that technology is constantly evolving, these new guidelines will be reviewed regularly and updated as needed.

Hemanshu Nigam, CEO of SSP Blue, a leading online safety/privacy firm, and the former Chief Security Officer for News Corporation/MySpace, serves as DISCUS’€™ Outside Advisor on digital marketing. He said: ‘€œThe use of social networking sites and other digital platforms to market consumer products is evolving rapidly and these spirits companies are leading the way by working to stay ahead of the technology to ensure it is done in a responsible manner.’€

Distilled Spirits Council President Peter Cressy stated, ‘€œSocial media has become an increasingly important marketing channel to reach adult consumers of legal purchase age. These new digital guidelines reflect our companies’€™ strong commitment to extend their responsible marketing practices to these emerging media platforms.’€

Cressy noted that the distillers’€™ Code of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing has been in place for over 76 years and has been regularly updated to address changes in technology and societal mores. He added that there has been 100 percent compliance by DISCUS members with the stringent standards of the Code, as well as overwhelming compliance by non-DISCUS members.

Jodie Bernstein, former Director of the Federal Trade Commission’€™s Bureau of Consumer Protection and an Outside Advisor to the DISCUS Code Review Board, stated, ‘€œThese new digital guidelines underscore the distilled spirits industry’€™s commitment to uphold responsible advertising practices that stay current with modern society and technology. The distilled spirits industry has carved a path for responsible corporate citizenship. Other industries have followed their lead and they should.’€

Under the DISCUS Code, beverage alcohol advertising and marketing should be placed in media only where at least 71.6% of the audience is reasonably expected to be of the legal purchase age (21+). The most recent Nielsen online syndicated data (August 2011) show that the Facebook audience was 82.22% 21 years of age or older; the Twitter audience was 86.86% 21+; and the YouTube audience was 80.96% 21+.

The distilled spirits industry’€™s approach to self-regulation, pointed to as a model for other industries by the Federal Trade Commission, has been commended on numerous occasions by regulators, industry watchdogs and the media. (Link Embedded: History of Code Accomplishments, Awards, and Accolades) . For example, as part of its 2003 Code updates, DISCUS added transparency to the industry’€™s self-regulatory process by issuing semi-annual public reports on advertising complaints, marking the first public complaint report issued by an industry trade group.

The European Forum for Responsible Drinking is an alliance of Europe’€™s leading spirits companies committed to promoting responsible drinking in the EU and encouraging industry to adopt responsible self-regulatory standards for commercial communications.

Click to view the new digital guidelines


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