The Federal Alcohol Administration Act (FAA Act) contains provisions that apply to all advertisements in any media, including print, television, outdoor, and website advertisements. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is in charge of reviewing these advertisements and enforcing their related regulations.
Advancements in technology have led to new forms of advertising, including social media. Any business involved in the alcohol industry should be aware of how these media are reviewed and regulated to avoid non-compliance issues. The regulations apply to social network services like Facebook , video sharing sites like YouTube and Flickr, weblogs/blogs, forums, and comment sections on websites and mobile apps.
27 CFR §§ 4.62. 5.63, and 7.52 require mandatory statements to appear in advertisements for wines, distilled spirits, and malt beverages (e.g. beer), respectively. These same statements must be made on “fan” or “home” pages. They need appear only once, no matter how many sub- or tabbed pages are associated with the fan or home page. The statements must be:
- conspicuous and readily legible;
- clearly a part of the advertisement; and
- readily apparent to the viewer.
Though there is not specific requirement as to where the statements appear, the TTB recommends placing them where the viewer would most logically expect to search, such as in the profile or “About” section.
Sections 4.64, 5.65, and 7.54 outline what is not permitted in advertisements, and these regulations apply to social media fan pages, so it is important to review what can and cannot be done through these platforms.
An important note: The TTB considers any information posted to a fan page, including content created by a third party and reposted to the fan page as part of the fan page and therefore subject to the relevant regulations. Be sure that those witty e-cards or funny photos comply with the FAA Act provisions.
Video sharing sites
Videos posted to video sharing sites like YouTube are considered advertisements if they fall within the definitions outlined in §§ 4.61, 5.62, and 7.51. Basically, advertisements are written or verbal statements, illustrations, or depictions that induce sales in interstate or foreign commerce. If the associated definitions apply, then the regulations in §§4.62, 5.63, and 7.52 and §§4.64, 5.65, and 7.54 apply. The TTB recommends placing the statements in the profile, just like with social network services.
Blogs that discuss issues related to the company, its products, or the industry in general are considered advertisements by the TTB and are therefore subject to the advertising regulations described above.
The popularity of smartphones and tablets has made apps an increasingly valuable advertising medium. In the alcohol industry, apps can provide drink recipes, assistance in finding locations where a product is served or sold, or other information related to the product that a consumer may find useful or interesting. While by definition, these apps are considered advertisements, the TTB names them consumer specialty advertisements as defined in 27 CFR 6.84(b)(2): “…items that are designed to be carried away by the consumer, such as trading stamps, nonalcoholic mixers, pouring racks, ash trays, bottle or can openers, cork screws, shopping bags, matches, printed recipes, pamphlets, cards, leaflets, blotters, post cards, pencils, shirts, caps, and visors.”
Though the definition applied is different, the regulations regarding prohibited practices apply to mobile apps, as well.
Links and Quick Response (QR) codes
Links to other websites or pages are a bit trickier. The TTB will consider the entire message in the advertisement, including links, to determine if the content of the links are considered part of the advertisement. Links to other websites for which the company is responsible for advertising (say, for example, an affiliate or subsidiary company), are considered separate advertisements. In these cases, the advertisements that are linked to the website or page must also contain the required advertising statement.
For QR codes, the regulation that applies depends on to what the QR code links. For example, if the QR code links to the website, then the advertising regulations for websites apply. If it links to a social media page or YouTube video, then those associated regulations apply. The prohibited statements apply in any case.
Whoever handles advertising for your business, make sure that the FAA Act is reviewed, understood, and applied to all types of media.