If you manage a social media page for an alcoholic beverage, your job just became a little more demanding. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, known as the TTB, now considers social media posts a form of advertising:
“Because TTB considers industry member fan pages for alcohol beverages to be advertisements, all mandatory statements required by the regulations (in §§ 4.62, 5.63, and 7.52) must be included on them. TTB views the entire fan page (i.e., the “home” page and all sub or tabbed pages directly associated with the “home” page) as one advertisement, so mandatory statements need only appear once on the fan page, either on the “home” page or on any sub or tabbed pages directly associated with the “home” page. The regulations require that mandatory statements on alcohol beverage advertisements be: (1) conspicuous and readily legible; (2) clearly a part of the advertisement; and (3) readily apparent to the persons viewing the advertisement. Thus, mandatory statements may not be hidden or buried in an obscure location on the fan page.” – TTB Industry Circular May 13, 2013
The TTB is the bureau that ensures the “government warning” is on all wine labels and beer bottles. They tell you how large the text must be and where it must be placed. They also require you to display the state and country of origin and the date it was produced.
In May, the TTB released an Industry Circular stating that social media for alcoholic beverages will now be considered a form of advertising and therefore must comply with the advertising rules (with some exceptions). For example, a Facebook page will need to have “mandatory statements” in the “about” section, but not necessarily in every single post.
What are mandatory statements?
The TTB described mandatory statements as the following:
(a) Responsible advertiser. The advertisement shall state the name and address of the permittee responsible for its publication or broadcast. Street number and name may be omitted in the address.
(b) Class, type, and distinctive designation. The advertisement shall contain a conspicuous statement of the class, type, or distinctive designation to which the product belongs, corresponding with the statement of class, type, or distinctive designation which is required to appear on the label of the product.
(c) Exception. (1) If an advertisement refers to a general wine line or all of the wine products of one company, whether by the company name or by the brand name common to all the wine in the line, the only mandatory information necessary is the name and address of the responsible advertiser. This exception does not apply where only one type of wine is marketed under the specific brand name advertised.
(2) On consumer specialty items, the only information necessary is the company name or brand name of the product.
What do alcoholic beverage brands need to do to stay compliant?
I run a few social media pages for the alcohol industry. I’m a social media person, not a lawyer, but after reading that industry circular, here are my recommendations for making sure your social media pages are government compliant.
- Have a comment policy. It’s a good rule of thumb to have a policy (of some sort) in the about section about how the page is being moderated and how comments and posts by others will be dealt with. That way, if fans cause problems about having their comments deleted, you can refer them to your comment policy.
- Have mandatory statements in the about section. Make sure to have the mandatory statements necessary in the about section. This will look something like how it appears on the labels and any other type of advertising the brand may already be doing.
- Be careful who you link to. If a different social media page is linked in a post and that page is not compliant with the TTB rules, they might be held responsible. More on this.
Nicole Rose Dion is the Director of Digital Communications at The Abbi Agency, where she oversees all design and social media projects. Follow her on Twitter at @nicolerosedion and read her blog posts