Vol. 10, No. 1  August 1998

FTC Orders Brewers and Distillers to Report
on Youth Advertising Practices

The Federal Trade Commission ordered eight major alcohol companies to submit special reports on their compliance with self-regulatory advertising codes to avoid targeting underage drinkers. The companies, including Anheuser-Busch Inc., Miller Brewing Co., and Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc., are required to submit their reports to the FTC by October 5. The FTC will use the information to help determine if the industry is effective at enforcing its voluntary regulations on the content and placement of ads. The FTC request also seeks information on company public service activities to discourage underage drinking and efforts to ensure that any marketing activities on college campuses are directed at an adult audience. The findings will be submitted to Congress.

CSPI thinks the FTC’s action is a step in the right direction. It sets the stage for eventual tighter voluntary and governmental standards to protect underage persons from alcohol advertising appeals. For the first time, beer and liquor companies will have to answer for their promotions featuring characters, music, and themes that have an inherent appeal to children and teenagers, such as Budweiser’s animated frogs and lizard

In related news, the FTC settled two cases involving televised ads for Beck’s beer and Kahlua White Russian pre-mix cocktail. The Beck’s ad depicted young people drinking on a boat and was criticized by the FTC for depicting alcohol consumption in a potentially dangerous situation. The Kahlua White Russian ad misrepresented the product, claiming it was a "low alcohol" beverage, while in reality it contains 5.9 percent alcohol by volume, more than many beers, malt liquors, and wine coolers. The consent orders do not require admissions of wrong-doing on the part of the companies. The Beck’s ad will not be shown in the future, and the Kahlua settlement prohibits future misrepresentations of alcohol beverage content in advertising

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