Alcohol marketing: The Instagram minefield

14 January, 2019
Tom Harvey YesMore

Tom Harvey, new client director at YesMore

Tom Harvey, new client director at YesMore explains the dangers surrounding marketing on Instagram for alcohol brands and offers some sollutions to these issues.

If you work in drinks marketing and have ever taken a look at competitors on social media, one thing is clear: Instagram is a minefield for alcohol marketers.

You’ll see some brands that age-gate (prevent under 18s from viewing) their content - and many that don’t. Or brands that simply use their ‘biography’ space to tell followers they need to be over 18 (or 21) to follow them, as if a 17-year-old will take any notice.

We’ve seen brands fill these same biographies with legal disclaimers - some even provide a link to a downloadable PDF of terms and conditions designed for user generated content, which get used across all of their social platforms without specific relevance to Instagram itself.

The result of all this is a mess: accounts with timid content, barely posting at all in some cases, burdening users with PDFs to read (which will likely be ignored completely) and from the tone of their profiles, clearly fearful that they aren’t following the rules correctly. Ultimately, this is a bad experience for both brands and consumers.


Instagram seems to occupy a uniquely challenging place in the marketing landscape: covered by, for UK marketers, three separate sets of rules. Some of these rules are approaching a decade old - written at a time when social media was a totally different beast. The result is that many brands are using non native techniques - things that aren’t designed to be used on Instagram, such as PDFs - to try to get their message across.

For those that want to improve, here are, as far as we can tell, the rules alcohol marketers should be following while using Instagram:

1 - Understand the rules that cover the channel

Paid-for posts will be covered by the CAP Code/ASA. Content that is not paid for fall under sales promotion and will be covered by Portman. And the whole thing will be covered by a third set of rules from self-regulatory body the European Forum for Responsible Drinking (ERFD), drawn up in 2011. It seems that many of the age restrictions in biographies and PDF terms and conditions documents may have come from here. They even have their own PDF, which is actually quite useful.

It’s fair to say the result is a bit of a mess - almost impossible for brands to be confident that they are both marketing effectively and remaining compliant.

2 - Age-gate your Instagram channel

Frustratingly the process is rather long-drawn out and Instagram doesn’t make it particularly easy.

The process on Facebook can be done easily, via a self-service online page. But despite being owned by the same parent company, on Instagram, nothing comes up via search, and you ultimately need to speak to an advisor to get the age gating in place. In our experience, it can even be hard to reach the right person to do this.

Digital Edition

Drinks International digital edition is available ahead of the printed magazine. Don’t miss out, make sure you subscribe today to access the digital edition and all archived editions of Drinks International as part of your subscription.


La'Mel Clarke

Service isn’t servitude: the skill of hosting

La’Mel Clarke, front of house at London’s Seed Library, looks at the forgotten art of hosting and why it deserves the same respect as bartending.