The European Forum for Responsible Drinking (EFRD) and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) have launched common self-regulatory standards governing the advertising of spirits through social networking sites, blogs and mobile apps, including user-generated material.

The EFRD said the new guidelines, issued today (21 September) and due to come into operation from 30 September, “demonstrate once more the industry’s leadership in social responsibility” and “provide evidence that self-regulation is a more effective, efficient and proportionate response to the challenges of regulating social media”.

Under the guidelines, spirits companies will restrict access to official brand pages on social networking sites such as Facebook to users over 18. Advertising will only be placed on channels not under their direct control when audience data shows that more than 70% of viewers are over 18.

Crucially, the new guidelines extend to user-generated content, with spirits companies undertaking to monitor brand pages on social networking sites and remove inappropriate user-generated content within 48 hours.

In addition, to comply with the guidelines, companies must display clear privacy policies that ensure compliance with data protection and privacy rules, include responsible drinking messages, and continue using age-checks on brand websites’ access pages to comply with national rules.

“Digital marketing is becoming increasingly important in our engagement with consumers. These new guidelines will ensure that we apply the same high standards to all new media channels and technologies such as Mobile applications or social media platforms such as Facebook,” EFRD chairman Alan Butler said.

EFRD has also published the results of what it describes as “an extensive independent monitoring programme” assessing compliance with the industry’s commitment to place commercial communications only in media where more than 70% of the audience is reasonably expected to be over 18.

The research, undertaken by Accenture Media Management, reviewed around 50,000 TV spots across seven EU countries and print media advertising in six countries. While all media buying by member companies must comply with the 70% rule on the basis of audience forecasts, the ex-post audience analysis showed that over 96% of TV ads and 100% of magazine ads were appropriately placed, EFRD said.

Butler said the results demonstrate the spirits industry’s “ongoing commitment to ensuring we never target underage audiences”, adding that, while proud of current levels of compliance, it remained “committed to strengthening self-regulation”.