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Alcohol marketing and social media – industry ahead of the game

Facebook announced it will allow their users to proactively block adverts on a specific topic including alcohol.

It has been claimed for a long time that social media are saturated by targeted promotions of products such as alcohol and junk food.

During the Facebook trial, participants will be able to block alcohol-related ads for six months, a year or permanently, by accessing their ad preferences. They will also be able to hide ads related to parenting.

The social network has asking people to suggest other topics they would like to be able to block.

This move by Facebook comes at nearly the same time as pledge by biggest alcohol producers to improve their online marketing standards.

The heads of 11 leading beer, wine and spirits companies said the standards will aim to ensure that alcohol advertising only targets those adults that can "lawfully buy our products". The pledge comes as the "explosion of digital channels... transforms the way in which people understand and interact with our brands", the CEO's added.

"By working with our marketers internally, agencies and social media companies we believe we can create these rigorous standards for our industry and potentially for others," the statement continued. "We know we can achieve more together than we can by working separately."

The joint-statement was signed by AB InBev's Carlos Brito, Diageo's Ivan Menezes, Beam Suntory's Matt Shattock, Heineken's Jean-Francois Van Boxmeer, Carlsberg's Ceet 't Hart, Pernod Ricard's Alex Ricard, Bacardi's Mike Dolan, Kirin Holdings' Yoshinori Isozaki, Asahi's Naoki Izumiya, Molson Coors' Mark Hunter and Brown-Forman's Paul Varga. It was organised by the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking.

Why does it matter?

Digital marketing for alcohol has proven to be more challenging than in other industries because of concerns that people under the legal drinking age may be able to view content.

Mesh that with targeted marketing and algorithms used for online marketing as a standard practice and a recipe for cocktails of PR disasters is ready.

Some producers worry that age-gating on social media sites is not yet strong enough to allow them to invest in wide-scale marketing programmes.

A massive legal loophole

In majority of the European countries advertising provisions on social media platforms are filled with loopholes. A vacuum happily filled by alcohol producers that created their own self-regulatory codes.

As the European Institutions are revising, the AVMSD file, companies are pressing ahead. Leaving regulators as usual few steps back. AVMSD is proposing wide spread promotion of self-regulation and co-regulation including the social media platforms. This is music to the ears of the marketers and alcohol producers who are already working on such self-regulatory codes, needing only a stamp of approval by the European Institutions.

Campaigners have been for years suggesting that there needs to be a robust review of the rules governing alcohol adverts online conducted by independent public bodies.

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