On Monday, the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (“TTB”) released new guidance on the use of social media by alcohol beverage companies. The Industry Circular explicitly equates “social media” with “advertising,” and suggests that advertising regulatory requirements, including statements and disclosures mandated by TTB rules, apply to social networks and video sharing sites. The Circular does its best to take a practical approach to social media and holds industry members accountable mainly for what they themselves post or repost on their own websites, pages or apps. Postings by producers on sites maintained by other individuals or companies may also be advertising if the “totality of the message” leads to that conclusion. Mandatory statements are required on “profile” pages as well as on any data likely to become standalone material.
While the Circular does not directly refer to voluntary codes of advertising adopted by national wine, beer, and spirits trade groups, its publication should be a reminder of the importance of self-regulation and compliance. Apart from TTB, the Federal Trade Commission has also shown active interest in studying alcohol advertising online.