On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Responsible Marketing Pact, Giuditta Hanau Santini, Junior Policy Manager at WFA, shares her thoughts on the importance of protecting minors from exposure to alcohol advertising.
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I have vivid memories from when I was a teenager, not so long ago, of TV ads and billboards advertising alcoholic beverages. Looking back (and remembering the content of some of the ads) it’s clear that in the early 2000s responsible marketing may not have been the alcohol industry’s number one concern.
Things have changed radically since, due to increased societal and regulatory pressures.
In response to growing concerns, in 2012 seven global leading alcohol producers (AB InBev, Bacardi, Brown-Forman, Carlsberg, Diageo, Heineken and Pernod Ricard) agreed to abide by an ambitious set of global standards to protect minors from alcohol advertising: the Responsible Marketing Pact (RMP) was born.
Today this framework remains the most far-reaching response to the UN’s call on the private sector to eliminate alcohol marketing to minors. Moreover, EU regulators support self- and co-regulation in this space and the Audio-visual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) recognizes self- and co-regulation as effective forms of consumer protection.
In the past 10 years, the RMP not only has expanded by welcoming two new members (Moët Hennessy and The Coca-Cola Company), but has also evolved to reflect developments of the space it operates in.
In a nutshell, the RMP ensures that:
- Alcohol ads don’t appeal to minors – the RMP represents the first time that the industry agreed on an exclusion list in order to ensure that ad content does not appeal to minors. The list includes more than 40 practices and techniques that are likely to disproportionately appeal to minors, such as certain characters or specific styles.
- Alcohol ads don’t appear in media popular with minors – the RMP requires that, in traditional media, alcohol ads can only be placed in media where a minimum of 70% of the audience are adults. Today, ad spend is increasingly shifting to digital media. These new channels allow advertisers to be more precise in their targeting. In 2021 Nielsen reviewed over 40,000 online ads in six European countries and found that just 0.28% of online ads are for alcohol. Nielsen estimates that a minor would need to visit an average site 1,936 times before they encounter an alcohol ad!
- The online experiences of minors are free from alcohol ads – under the RMP a checklist was developed of five elements designed to ensure that the online experience is free of ads for minors. These elements include age gating, forward advice notice, a user-generated content policy, a transparency statement and a responsible drinking message. The CEOs of the the world’s biggest alcohol manufacturers who come together under the International Alliance for Responsible Media (IARD) aim to reach 95% compliance with the digital guiding principles (DGPs) by 2024.
There will always be criticism of advertising industry self-regulation, especially in a sensitive area such as alcohol marketing. And although we have come a long way, there is still work to do in order to meet the RMP’s ambitious target of eliminating alcohol marketing to minors.
The world is fundamentally different from the early 2000s, when the teenage me would see alcohol ads on TV and billboards around town. The internet is continuously evolving, and consequently so is advertising. Realities such as influencer marketing, the issue of age verification, collaboration with social media platforms, the role of the alcohol industry in sponsoring events and the exponential growth of online gaming, are just some of the challenges we face.
My hope is that minors can enjoy all the possibilities the internet has to offer, while enjoying protection from content they should not see. The RMP is ready to tackle these challenges head on.
For more information, visit www.the-rmp.eu