Social media spotlight: French alcohol campaign banned for exceeding the limit

  • Post category:World News

In a first-of-its-kind decision, the highest court in France has banned a Facebook app by alcohol brand Pernod Ricard, claiming it has no place on the social network.

From Social Media Intelligence

The smartphone app allowed users to post cocktail recipes directly to their feeds with the message: “You can get Ricard Mix recipes too on the Ricard Mix Codes app.” Judges from the Cour de Cassation (one of France’s courts of ’last resort’) claimed the app was “inopportune”.

The court claimed that firstly, users logging on to find such a message from a friend would not recognize it as an advert as it was posted by someone they trust, and secondly, users would be unwilling recipients of such advertising, since it’s not the sort of content they’d expect from friends (which is apparently pictures of babies and updates about holidays).

The ruling has gone relatively unnoticed in France – which is unsurprising as officials have a history of mollycoddling the public when it comes to advertising – but the decision raises some pertinent questions about the way French officials believe social media works.

For a start, protecting users from unsuspected advertising is a noble idea, but essentially impossible. Anybody with a pair of eyes can attest to the fact that advertising on Facebook – clearly marked or otherwise – is everywhere. The idea that users won’t recognize these posts as adverts as they come from friends is also moot. With companies increasingly relying on the activity of their fans to do their advertising for them (by clicking on shares, likes and offers), it’s likely this form of ’indirect’ advertising will soon take precedent over the traditional paid-for ads, of which many users are distrustful anyway.

Of course, that it’s an alcohol brand in question may well be the issue, but the officials didn’t touch on that significantly in their ruling (and France is generally well-known for its benevolent attitude to the nectar).

This (embarrassing) ruling relies on the idea that the public cannot fathom the difference between an advert and what is not an advert – a status update and an obvious show of publicity; something entirely inapplicable to anyone that has spent any length of time on Facebook.