FTC study taking aim at online marketing of booze and kids

Tue Jan 22, 2013 4:46pm EST
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By Sue Zeidler

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) plans this summer to recommend ways that the alcoholic beverage industry can better protect underage viewers from seeing its advertisements online.

Distillers, brewers and wineries pour millions of dollars into brand promotion on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, and industry critics contend they are not doing enough to prevent young consumers from receiving these messages.

"We're doing a deep dive on how they're using the Internet and social media," said Janet Evans, a lawyer with the FTC, which is conducting a year-long study due to be released by early summer. "We're focusing on underage exposure."

She would not elaborate on any potential recommendations that might come out of the study, which began in April 2012.

The FTC is reviewing data from 14 big producers, Evans said, including Beam Inc, the maker of Jim Beam, Diageo Plc, home to Johnnie Walker, and Constellation Brands Inc, which makes Robert Mondavi and Ravenswood wines.

The FTC report "is something we take seriously and place at high priority," said Karena Breslin, director for digital marketing at Constellation.

The FTC has made two requests for information since the study began, she said.

The regulatory agency has not said it intends to impose restrictions on liquor company social media advertising but it can make recommendations to the industry.   Continued...