Alcohol companies use Facebook to avoid advertising restrictions

  • Post category:World News

ALCOHOL companies are using social media to get around advertising regulations and consumers to mount their marketing pitch for them, a new study shows.


With more than 2.5 million followers on Facebook the top 20 alcohol brands in Australia posted more than 4500 items of content on Facebook in 2012, according to a new University of Queensland study.

Facebook fans liked, shared and commented more than 2.3 million times to the alcohol content on Facebook, the study found.

“These figures suggest that Facebook is now a key player in the promotion of alcohol,” the research, Like Comment Share: Alcohol brand activity on Facebook says.


Brands strategically arranged the timing of their posts to fit in with the drinking rituals of Australians with the most common time to post between 3pm and 5pm and the most common day to post was Friday.

On average brands posted four pieces of content a week, with the most prolific, Jim Beam, posting nearly twice a day and each post generated on average 543 interactions.

NPHA: Alcohol advertising regulations weak

Companies used Facebook to ask questions, host competitions, post memes and videos, produce advertisements and images of promotional activities and rely on fans to use their own identities and networks to circulate their brand messages.

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education which funded the research wants government to tighten regulation in the area.

“The current industry self-regulatory regime, as weak as it is, in dealing with traditional forms of alcohol advertising, was established in a pre-Facebook world, and as such, is simply not capable of addressing the types of aggressive and pervasive advertising and promotion that we see today so entrenched in Facebook.” FARE chief executive Michael Thorn said.

Researcher Dr Nicholas Carah said alcohol brands are using Facebook to get the consumers of their products to collaborate in the creation and circulation of brand messages.

“Our current regulation doesn’t address consumer collaboration, let alone what types of consumer collaboration are appropriate,” he said.

Facebook gave alcohol companies the ability to reach millions of consumers without paying for traditional advertising allowing it to invest more in culturally embedded forms of marketing such as sponsorship, popular culture, viral content and real-world activations.

“Harnessing the power of Facebook, alcohol brands can shift their marketing resources to below-the-line activities that are less visible to authorities and regulators,” Dr Carah said.

The research also highlighted issues of privacy and transparency.

“Alcohol brands are creating messages that target consumers based on who they are, their cultural preferences, their peer network and location. Currently there is no regulation to address how the alcohol industry collect information about consumers, the kind of information collected, nor how it is used to target consumers,” Dr Carah said.

COMMENT BELOW: Should government tighten how companies use social media

Alcohol advertising on television is restricted until after 8.30pm at night except during major sporting events and half a dozen voluntary codes apply to how alcohol companies can market their product.

It can’t appeal to children. Encourage excessive consumption or imply that alcohol causes positive social gain.

While some of these codes do cover advertising in social media it has been very difficult to get complaints upheld because a single image off Facebook does not give the full picture or context of the advertising method.