Alcohol marketing

In the Netherlands three different regulations exists that specifically refer to alcohol advertising & marketing:
1. The Alcohol Act
2. The Dutch Advertising Code (and associated special codes)
3. The Media Act 2008

1. Alcohol Act

Article 2 of the Alcohol Act (see below an unofficial translation) gives the minister of Health, Welfare and Sport the competence to regulate alcohol advertising in the Alcohol Decree. But until now there is no such regulation in force.

Article 2 Alcohol Act
1. Regulations on the content of advertisements for alcoholic beverages, the target group at which such advertising is aimed, and the time, manner and place at which and in which advertising takes place may be laid down by a decree in the interest of public health. These regulations may include prohibitions, restrictions and requirements in respect of advertisements. The decree will include transitional arrangements in respect of advertisements already published when the measure comes into force.
2. It is forbidden to make advertising for alcoholic beverages that does not comply with the regulations laid down pursuant to (1).
3. The prohibition in (2) does not apply to advertisements for alcoholic beverages that merely contain details of the brand, type and price of the beverage in question together with the place where that beverage is sold.
4. A decree determined pursuant to (1) will come into force no less than eight weeks after the publication date of the Bulletin of Acts, Orders and Decrees in which it is published. Both Houses of the States General will be notified of its publication without delay.

Article 2a, Alcohol Act
It is since July 2021 forbidden for a retailer to offer more than 25% off the price he normally charges. Nor should he give the impression that he is more than 25% cheaper than others.

Article 14a, Alcohol Act
Since July 2021 only licensed liquor stores may offer strong alcoholic beverages via the liquor store's website and take orders for strong alcoholic beverages online or by telephone and have them delivered to private homes or distribution points.

2. The Dutch Advertising Code

Advertising of alcoholic beverages is in the Netherlands mainly controlled by self regulation of the drinks industry. Since 1990 an Advertising Code for Alcoholic Beverages is in effect. That is a special code of the Dutch Advertising Code. In 2000 the Advertising Code for Alcoholic Beverages has been amended. Since then there is a voluntary advertising ban on all media if more than 25% of the audience (viewers, listeners, readers or visitors) is under 18 years. Since a 2008 amendment there is an obligatory slogan (as of July 2014: "No 18, no alcohol"). In the Advertising Code for Alcoholic Beverages the rules of articles 9 and 22 of the Audiovisual Media Service Directive are incorporated.

Article 24 Advertising Code for Alcoholic Beverages
No advertising of alcoholic beverages in any form may reach a public that consists of more than twenty-five percent (25%) of minors. The reach is determined over a representative measuring period that is determined on the basis of the concrete circumstances of the case (among other its location, medium, impact, proportionality) and by means of reach figures that are as objective as possible.
The standard for determining the reach of advertising messages is the generally accepted survey for this purpose in the market and, in case not available, any other valid and representative evidence.
In case of events the attendance figures are the standard for determining the reach of advertising messages. The burden of proof regarding the reach of advertising messages falls on the advertiser, who has to base his figures on generally accepted viewer or listener ratings in the market or any other valid and representative evidence. As far as websites and their subpages are concerned, one should make a reasonable case for using user profiles.

Furthermore, since autumn 2020 there is an Advertising Code for Alcohol Free and Low Alcohol Beer. This code, also a special code of the Dutch Advertising Code, stipulates, among other things, that advertising for non-alcohol and low-alcohol beer may not be aimed at young people under the age of 18 and that advertising for low-alcohol beer must not be aimed at pregnant women and active traffic participation. The code applies to Dutch advertising for all beers with an alcohol content up to 0.5% ABV and applies to all organizations that advertise, such as brewers, supermarkets and the hospitality sector.

The English translation of the Advertising Code for Alcoholic Beverages can be found here.

The English translation of the Advertising Code for Alcohol Free and Low Alcohol Beer can be found here.

3. Media Act 2008

As of 2009 the Netherlands has a legal ban on alcohol advertisements on television and radio from 6 am to 9 pm. Broadcasters are not allowed to transmit during these hours spots for all alcoholic beverages. This "time lock' is included in the Media Act 2008. The advertising ban is directed at Dutch broadcasters only. The "time-lock" does not apply to RTL Netherlands, which is focused at the Netherlands, but established in Luxembourg. The rules are enforced by the Dutch Media Authority.

The Media Act and the associated lower regulations also contain some provisions on (alcohol) sponsorship. The main ones are:
• If there is sponsorship, this is always stated.
• On the public broadcaster, the mention of the alcohol sponsor must be neutral, i.e. it may only consist of the sponsor's name or trademark in a still image. The listing is not full screen.
• On the commercial broadcaster, the mention of the alcohol sponsor must be neutral between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. After 9 pm this does not have to be neutral, but it should not be a recommendation.
• Mentioning the sponsor takes a maximum of 5 seconds.
• Mention may take place before and after the program and at the beginning and end of the commercial breaks during the program.

Product placement (paid display or mention of a product in a programme) of alcoholic beverages, must apply to the following rules:
• Product placement is only allowed on commercial channels, except on news and current affairs programs, programs about consumer affairs, and programs of a church or spiritual nature. Media offerings aimed at children under the age of 12 may never contain product placement, even if they are, for example, films or TV series.
• Product placement in the program offering is designed in such a way that:
- the public is not directly encouraged to buy the drink concerned by means of specific promotions; and
- the product concerned does not receive undue attention.
• Product placement for alcoholic beverages on commercial channels is not allowed between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
• When a program includes product placement, that is clearly stated. Product placement must be recognizable as such.

As of July 1, 2022, influencers who regularly post videos on major platforms such as Youtube, Instagram and TikTok and have more than 500,000 followers or subscribers, must comply with a number of rules from the Media Act. In practice this means that:
• When influencers advertise, they must clearly state this. For example by adding 'paid collaboration' or '#ad'.
• Covert advertising is prohibited. It must also be clear which brand is being advertised.
• They must use content warning icons with an age recommendation.
• If an influencer is sponsored, they have to make that known at the beginning or the end.
• Advertising medical treatments is prohibited.
• Videos intended for children should not promote chocolate, sweets and alcohol.
• Unboxing videos with children's toys should not be made for children. These are films in which products are unpacked and discussed.
• Strict rules also apply to gambling.

In 2002 the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport commissioned the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP to monitor the advertising and marketing practices of the drinks industry in the Netherlands, including the "time lock" in the Media Act 2008. From this research it now appears that this “time lock” has had no effect on 12-17 year olds. This is because the alcohol producers, after the introduction of the ‘time lock’, have trebled the number of TV-advertisements after 9 p.m.
In 2013 the minister stopped the grant for the monitoring activities of STAP.

Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP
P.O. Box 9769
3506 GT Utrecht
The Netherlands
T: +31 (0)30-6565041
F: +31 (0)30-6565043