EUCAM - European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing

The failure of self-regulation: An American Example

22 May 2011

The failure of self-regulation: An American Example The Marin Institutes blog recently described a prime example of the failure of the self-regulatory system. The Institute had gotten a complaint of a concerned parent who reported the placing of a billboard from tequilla producer Jose Cuervo opposite her son’s middle school. When the Marin Institute contacted the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) to adress the issue, the ad was soon removed, but the story of this industry mistake was turned into a tale that celebrates the succes of self-regulation.

The picture on the right turned up on the side of a building opposite a Seattle middle school. Since the placing of the ad was in breach of the industry’s voluntary self-regulation guidelines, which say that such ads much be at least 500 feet removed from a school, the Marin Institute decided to take action. However, they deliberatly decided not to use the official complaint process, because they see this procedure as a ‘failure and a charade’.

Instead the institute directly contacted DISCUS, which swiftly removed the ad. Discus politely thanked the Marin Institute and told them that they would record the complaint as part of the official process, despite the institute’s requests not to do so. Shortly after, DISCUS also responded to the parent who had originally reported the Jose Cuervo ad to the Marin Institute: ‘Your complaint will be part of the Code’s next Semi-Annual Report and posted on the DISCUS website within the next few days. Your proactive action to address this advertisement will be highlighted in the placement tutorials at our [...] “Best Practices” Media Summit, attended by industry members from all sectors[...]’.

The institute’s response included the following: ‘How can the self-regulatory system be viewed as a success when the only cases you report on are complaints like these? It is the exception, rather than the rule, to have people [like this woman] take the time and energy to contact us. Most people don't know that's even an option. She obviously had no idea how to complain to DISCUS or she would have done so directly.’

The Marin Institute concludes that rather than a reason to celebrate, this case raises the question, how many more ads there are in violation that no one will ever know about. According to the institue this case proves the importance of ‘an independent, scientifically-sound monitoring system’.

For the full story: Marin Institue Blog 05/17/11

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