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Alcohol marketers high on digital media

Beer being poured into a glass

by Jeff Horwich

When Smirnoff launched Raw Tea, they hit the viral jackpot with a music video called "Tea Partay."

"We're gonna turn it out with our parents' riches, we'll serve Smirnoff Raw Tea and finger sandwiches," goes the video.

Five-million YouTube hits -- the problem, says the Center for Digital Democracy, is you don't know who's watching. The alcohol industry's voluntary rule says 70 percent of people who see your ad have to be legal. But on YouTube, Facebook, and cell phones...

"So much of this activity is unmeasured," says David Jernigan, who runs the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at John's Hopkins.

He says "viral" marketing campaigns -- by definition -- mean companies can't control if kids see their ads. And the games and contests in online alcohol ads...

"Are designed to create an immersive experience -- deep and rich engagement with the brand," he says.

The report asks the Federal Trade Commission to investigate online alcohol spending and publish the results. The Distilled Spirits Council says it applies the same rigorous guidelines across all media.

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