That’s what the FTC wants to find out. On March 8, the FTC announced that it published a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comment on a proposal to collect self-regulatory compliance and other advertising and marketing data from beverage alcohol manufacturers. Comments are due by April 26. The announcement of a new alcohol industry study comes after the FTC sent warning letters to four makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages last Fall.
In its 1999, 2003, and 2008 reports, the FTC looked at industry self-regulation of advertising to underage consumers and offered recommendations to improve self-regulation. As a result, the industry has improved self-regulations practices by, among other things, increasing the placement standard for advertising from audiences that are at least 50% adults of legal drinking age to 70%, improving compliance with this placement standard, adopting third-party compliance review, and increasing attention to advertising content that may appeal to underage consumers.
The current data collection proposal is aimed at verifying and studying the industry’s compliance with its voluntary standards. Keeping pace with evolving marketing practices and the Commission’s focus on privacy issues in on-line and mobile marketing, the FTC is also proposing to collect data on the industry’s digital and social media marketing and its data collection practices with respect to underage consumers.
All in all, it appears that the beverage alcohol industry and the FTC can count the industry’s self-regulation practices as a success. The FTC has long encouraged self-regulation because it “can be more prompt, flexible, and effective than government regulation.” But, as on-line marketers are finding out, the FTC’s patience will last only so long if industry is seen as non-responsive to its concerns.