Tremendous opportunities exist for advertising brands, events and other promotional activities in digital media, which includes traditional web sites, social networks and integrated advertising platforms.  Properly executed marketing efforts provide great flexibility to reach and interact with adults of legal drinking age on a range of devices.  “Properly executed” is the key, particularly in digital media where campaigns can go from the conceptual stage to dissemination to millions of consumers in a matter of days.

Many professionals in the rapidly evolving media landscape grew up in a culture of free expression unparalleled in human history and several generations removed from the post- Prohibition mindset that inspired existing restrictions on alcohol advertising.  Those who are anxious to use their creative talents in alcohol beverage advertising campaigns must become familiar with unique federal and state laws governing alcohol advertising as well as voluntary industry codes.  Failure to take basic compliance measures can result in a devastating delay or removal of an innovative app, social network site or geo-targeting plan.  In addition to the loss of a key part of a campaign, government enforcement actions can result in penalties and reputational damage.

  • At the federal level, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulate alcohol beverage advertising.  Both agencies have shown recent interest in online and social media.
  • Each state has alcohol beverage and consumer protection statutes and policies.
  • Several industry trade associations and many digital media outlets have self-regulatory codes or unique rules that apply to content and placement of alcohol beverage advertising.

Basic principles of government regulation and industry self-regulation include societal concerns over issues such as alcohol abuse and potential appeal of advertising content to underage audiences.  The power of digital media triggers additional issues such as privacy and data security.

The next three parts of this series will address federal regulation, state regulation and industry self-regulation.