Social Media, Advertising and Your Brewery Even Your # is Regulated. TTB & Virginia Regulations.
A well put together advertising campaign and social media strategy is essential for any business to flourish. Breweries, like many businesses, use a custom #(hashtag) to infiltrate social media markets and monitor what consumers are saying. Creating advertising visuals for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter catch the eye of the customer and are key to drive sales and increase the customer base. Unbeknownst to many breweries, all of these business practices are regulated by both the Federal TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) and the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority. The alcohol industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries at both the Federal and State levels. Creating non-compliant advertisements can result in thousands of dollars in fines, license suspensions, and attending regulatory violation hearings.
We have had many brewers throughout the country contact us through our website, www.BreweryCompliance.com, with questions and concerns relating to their business advertising and social media presence. We are going to provide a very brief overview of a few Federal and State advertising regulations.
What does TTB consider an advertisement?
The regulations define the term “advertisement” as any written or verbal statement, illustration, or depiction which is in, or calculated to induce sales in, interstate or foreign commerce, or is disseminated by mail. Examples include ads in newspapers or magazines, trade booklets, menus, wine cards, leaflets, circulars, mailers, book inserts, catalogs, promotional materials, or sales pamphlets. The definition includes any written, printed, graphic, or other matter accompanying the container; markings on cases, billboards, signs, or other outdoor display; and broadcasts made via radio, television, or in any other media.
Though not specifically listed, this definition includes websites and other Internet-based advertising such as social media.
Does TTB approve alcohol beverage advertisements?
The Federal Alcohol Administration Act does not require alcohol beverage advertisements to be approved prior to appearing in print or broadcast. TTB does, however, offer industry members, free of charge, a voluntary advertising pre-clearance service.
How does TTB monitor advertisements in the marketplace?
TTB monitors the advertising of alcohol beverages through a combination of (1) referrals and complaints about specific alcohol beverage advertisements, (2) industry member requests for advertising pre-clearance, and (3) internal selections of advertisements for review.
Generally speaking, federal regulations prohibit:
1. Misleading Guarantees (Money back guarantees are not prohibited)
2. Statements that are False or Untrue Statements that are Inconsistent with Approved Product Labels
3. False or Misleading Statements that are Disparaging of a Competitor’s Product
4. Health-Related Statements that are False or Misleading such as: "will improve memory", "no headaches", "provides energy"
A comprehensive overview of federal malt beverage advertising regulations can be found in Title 27 → Chapter I → Subchapter A → Part 7 of the Code of Federal Regulations. https://www.ttb.gov
The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control also regulates how breweries can advertise. Virginia Administrative Code 3 VAC 5-20-10 to 3 VAC 5-20-100 are the state regulations related to alcoholic beverage advertisements. The Virginia ABC website states that advertisements cannot:
Encourage underage drinking or excessive drinking;
Be lewd or obscene;
Mention the intoxicating effects of alcohol; or
Be false or misleading or imply any therapeutic effects from drinking
Looking a little deeper at Virginia Administrative Code 3VAC5-20-10. Advertising, we can see much of state regulations also mimic federal code. 3VAC5-20-10. Advertising; generally, states, D. No advertising shall contain any statement, symbol, depiction or reference that: 1. Would tend to induce minors to drink, or would tend to induce persons to consume to excess; 2. Is obscene or is suggestive of any illegal activity; 3. Incorporates the use of any present or former athlete or athletic team or implies that the product enhances athletic prowess; except that, persons granted a license to sell wine or beer may display within their licensed premises point-of-sale advertising materials that incorporate the use of any present or former professional athlete or athletic team, provided that such advertising materials: (i) otherwise comply with the applicable regulations of the appropriate federal agency and (ii) do not depict any athlete consuming or about to consume alcohol prior to or while engaged in an athletic activity, do not depict an athlete consuming alcohol while the athlete is operating or about to operate a motor vehicle or other machinery, and do not imply that the alcoholic beverage so advertised enhances athletic prowess; 4. Is false or misleading in any material respect; 5. Implies or indicates, directly or indirectly, that the product is government endorsed by the use of flags, seals or other insignia or otherwise; 6. Makes any reference to the intoxicating effect of any alcoholic beverages... plus more. If you have ever wondered why breweries say or do not say certain things in their advertisements, Federal and State regulations are the answer. www.BreweryCompliance.com