Alcohol brands on Facebook: The challenges of regulating brands on social media
Date of this Version
In September 2012, the Australian Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) made ‘landmark decisions’ relating to the use of Facebook by vodka brand Smirnoff and beer brand Victoria Bitter. The ASB determined that (i) a brand's Facebook page is a marketing communication tool, and (ii) all contents on the page fall under the industry's self-regulatory code of ethics, including consumer-created content such as user-generated comments and photos. The decisions come in response to a submission that the authors made regarding the Facebook pages of the two brands. These submissions were based on a research project that had monitored the use of Facebook by several Australian alcohol brands since the late 2010 to identify how these brands use social media as experiential social spaces to engage consumers in the co-creation of content. This article reviews the ruling by analysing the advertisers' response to the complaint, the regulators' justifications for the decisions, and the possibilities and limitations of regulating social media in general. It argues that although the ASB has acknowledged that brands are responsible for all contents on their Facebook pages, the regulators' approach is of limited effectiveness given the way Facebook allows brands to embed themselves in the mediation of everyday life.
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