A Review of Advertising Self-Regulation
in the Distilled Spirits Industry
Alcohol Justice (formerly Marin Institute) examined the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) Code of Responsible Marketing PracticesAl reports from 2004-2007. The Federal Trade Commission has indicated its continued reliance on voluntary industry self-regulation as the main mechanism to ensure responsible marketing practices. Our major findings include the following:
- Complaints regarding ads from companies with a member on the DISCUS board were three times less likely to be found in violation of the Code.
- The most common complaints by far were about ads with sexual content.
- 22 complaints alleged that ads overexposed youth.
- The worst "repeat offender" brands were Skyy Vodka (8 complaints) and Svedka vodka (6 complaints).
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Barriers to effective self-regulation include: lack of public awareness, lack of an independent review, the subjective nature of guidelines, and lack of penalties and enforcement power. Marin Institute recommends:
A truly independent, third-party review body that includes public interest representatives.
Objective standards for judging the content of advertisements.
Lowering of the current 30 percent placement standard to 15 percent, so that ads may only be placed in media where no more than 15 percent of the audience is under the legal drinking age.
Enforcement power and significant penalties beyond requests to pull ads, enforceable by federal law or binding industry agreement.