BY JEN DRAPER
HEAD OF MARKETING, GLOBAL BRANDS
A recent move between the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) and social media platforms shows why current alcohol advertising codes are outdated.
The IARD, along with the likes of Facebook and Twitter, has made a series of commitments to improve responsible alcohol marketing on social media. This includes a pledge to provide people with more opportunity to opt-out of receiving content.
In essence, this will help stop people under the age of 18 years from seeing alcohol ads and give greater control over content to users of the lawful age to buy alcohol.
It’s a move that respects consumers, empowers them and reflects the modern world of marketing and advertising. And it’s this last point in particular that shows just how archaic the UK advertising codes for alcohol are.
Both the CAP and BCAP Codes were published in 2010 and during the past eight years, we’ve not seen any substantive rule changes to the alcohol parts of either code. And yet, during this time, we’ve seen social media grow exponentially and a huge shift in how brands market to consumers.
The transient and targeted nature of social media has seen many brands, alcohol included, move away from mass-marketing. Messaging and content are now much more audience-focused, with campaigns geared toward reaching specific demographics. Alcohol advertising codes simply don’t recognise this.
“Emphasis should be placed on making sure marketing content is made as responsibly relevant as possible for the intended audience.”
CAP Code rules state that alcohol marketing should not feature people drinking or playing a significant role in the content if they appear under 25 years of age. This rule is not relevant for social media alcohol marketing and needs updating.
It currently means alcohol brands are creating content that has a much lower chance of connecting with an age group of 18 – 22 years. This group is at a different life stage to people aged 25+ and won’t necessarily resonate with the people appearing in the marketing. As a result, content is more likely to be ignored, lessening the ability of alcohol brands to appropriately and responsibly market to an age group of legal drinking age.
This is all so unnecessary when social media provides brands with more control in terms of the age range they’re targeting. Additionally, the proposed pledge for users to better opt-out of receiving content, along with sophisticated algorithms personalising content according to users’ interests, means that now more than ever, people are more likely to engage with what they want to on social media.
Code rules should be rewritten and brought up-to-date to take these factors into account. Rather than focusing on people needing to appear over 25, emphasis should be placed on making sure marketing content is made as responsibly relevant as possible for the intended audience.
Part of this would involve featuring appropriately aged people in adverts that correspond with the age group being marketed to. This would mean the audience is more likely to relate to the content, heightening the potential for it to reach its desired target. This is a much more responsible approach and more in fitting with the principles of the alcohol advertising codes.
These principles are fundamentally sound and extremely important. They outline that alcohol marketing should not be targeted at people under 18 and should not imply, condone or encourage immoderate, irresponsible or anti-social drinking.
Rethinking specific rules from within the codes and bringing them up-to-date to embrace social media technology and data would better fulfil these principles.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019
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