EUCAM - European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing

Buzz marketing avoids approaching ban alcohol advertisements

27 February 2008

Buzz marketing avoids approaching ban alcohol advertisements The alcohol industry makes increasing use of the so called mouth-to-mouth marketing, in a time in which a ban of alcohol advertisements before 21:00 hours is being introduced. The question is raised whether buzz marketing falls under the Dutch Advertising Code.

Buzzer gets round approaching prohibition on alcohol advertisement
27 February 2008 source: Newspaper Trouw

Is 'buzzing' of alcohol - mouth-to-mouth- campaigns for beer and alcopops - a type of advertisement or of marketing research? The Advertising Code Committee asks itself that question.

No, buzzing is no advertisement, says Willem Sodderland of the company 'Buzzer', which has a small army of 25,000 Dutch and 5000 Belgian buzzers. "We bring products to a group consumers and they give voluntarily and unpaid their judgement. Actually, it is market research, and therefore marketing. No advertisement." Buzzing is of course advertisement, says Esther van den Wildenberg of the national foundation for alcohol prevention STAP. She has asked the Advertising Code Committee for a judgement concerning buzzing of alcohol. "The alcohol manufacturer commissions Buzzer to launch a buzz campaign. The initiative lies with the advertiser. As a result, buzzing in itself can be already interpreted as advertisement." "According to STAP, it has all the appearance that alcohol producers have thrown themselves upon buzz marketing with the perspective of the approaching advertising prohibition for alcohol. On radio and TV up to nine o'clock in the evening no alcohol advertisements may be broadcasted soon. By that measure the alcohol industry saves approximately 30 millions euro, according to the advertising magazine Adformatie. Heineken alone has spent already almost 14 millions euro on alcohol advertisement before 21.00 hours in the previous year.

Heineken, Grolsch and Bacardi have set up buzz campaigns last year. Heineken for the woman beer Wieckse Rosé and Grolsch for the new beer Dunkel Weizen. Bacardi brought a music event under the attention of the public by means of buzzers, according to STAP. Bacardi confirm the use of buzzers. "That has been already a couple of years ago", says spokesman Anne-Marie Touw. "It is a type of direct marketing, as old as the way to Rome." According to Touw, buzzing can be considered as advertisement. "The advertising code concerns all commercial communication on alcohol. Marketing is part of this."

Sodderland find the suggestion of STAP that manufacturers want to get round the advertising prohibition by means of buzzing ' fatuous', but he applauds an appraisal by the Advertising Code Committee. "I would like to get clarity. It would astonish me if buzzing is part of the Advertising Code for Alcoholic Beverages." The fact that buzzers do their work for free, indicates already to this is no advertisement, opinions Sodderland.

STAP finds that argument invalid. "In fact the buzzers get paid in kind, because they generally can test new products for free", according to Van den Wildenberg. Sodderland says that nowhere in Europe exists good legislation for buzz marketing. "For this reason we ourselves have a code of conduct. I also have been approached by a cigar manufacturer and am not yet sure whether we want do that. I have presented that question to our buzzers. A majority finds that it is possible. But here you are dealing with a product which is harmful and against which the government sets up discouragement campaigns. On the other hand, we never force a product. It is everybody's own choice try out something. Perhaps we must combine a buzz campaign for that little cigar with a campaign against smoking."

What actually is buzzing?

The concept is simple, says Willem Sodderland, co-owner of Buzzer the first mouth-to-mouth agency in the Netherlands. "Consumers talk with each other concerning products. With a new product the first users are your best ambassadors. We enable our buzzers to be the first to use new products. If there is a new beer for women, buzzers get the product at home for half of the price. Supplying alcohol for free alcohol is not allowed and we stick to the rules." The buzzers for Wieckse Rosé organised women nights with acquaintances and serve the new beer there. The responses had to be reported. Sodderland: "The buzzers do not get paid, they only receive the product. They have no further obligation. They do not have to give a positive story about a product, there is in fact absolutely no commercial interest." Buzzer tries to increase the fun of the women nights with games and recipes. A favourable buzz spreads itself as a slick of oil over friends, colleagues and acquaintances, according to Sodderland.

This is an unofficial translation of the Dutch article.

See for more news on Buzz marketing the following article the news article of 14th of February 'Alcohol Marketing in the Pub'.

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