Social Media: New Best Practices for Spirits

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (“DISCUS”), which represents spirits manufacturers and suppliers, this week released new guidelines (PDF) for marketing and promoting alcoholic beverage products via social media and other digital platforms.

While guidelines such as these are not binding, and not directly enforced by state or federal regulators, they may, over time, become “industry standard” practices that will influence agency interpretations and civil litigation on related subjects. This is especially likely to happen in the case where statutes, regulations, and case law may otherwise struggle to keep up with the pace of electronic marketing strategy, especially in the social media context. Similar self-regulatory codes have been adopted by the Wine Institute and the Beer Institute, though to date these have less specifically addressed social media issues.

Any proposed advertising, promotion and marketing activity concerning alcoholic beverage sales should be evaluated for compliance with applicable state laws in particular. The rules generally fall into three primary categories: 

  • Content—for example, they should not be appealing to or depict minors, or cross-promote activities of a retailer and a producer;
  • Placement—industry codes instruct that alcoholic beverage advertising and marketing should be placed in media only where the audience is reasonably expected to be over 21.
  • Promotion-specific issues—certain kinds of promotions involving alcohol beverages are restricted or prohibited in many states, such as giveaways of alcohol beverages, coupons for alcohol beverages, sweepstakes and contests involving alcoholic beverages, print and broadcast advertisements, exterior signage, point-of-sale materials, sampling and tasting programs, and public events.

Changes proposed to OLCC rules regarding advertising for Oregon liquor stores

A retail sales agent for a Corvalis, Oregon liquor store recently submitted a petition to amend the rules regarding external advertising for Oregon liquor stores. The proposed rule changes would allow Oregon liquor stores more flexibility in advertising their store (i) outside the store’s location, (ii) in publications and (iii) on the internet. The reasons offered for the amendment include leveling the playing field with other retailers of alcohol (beer and wine), distillers and distributors, and providing the public greater access to information. 

You can view the proposed amendment on the OLCC web site at http://oregon.gov/OLCC/.  Follow the “Laws and Rules” link, then follow the link to “Current Petitions Received”.

 

The OLCC amended the rules regarding advertising in Oregon liquor stores effective September 1, 2008 to allow more modern signing and display practices inside the stores. See OAR 845-015-0175 and -0177. 

 

The proposed rule changes would continue the trend toward allowing Oregon liquor stores to use more modern advertising practices that are commonly used by other retailers. The OLCC is accepting written comments until 5:00 pm on August 28, 2009.