Shauna Lewis
Oct 29, 2021

UK ad watchdog finds alcohol ads could be targeting children on social media

ASA report used data from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube.

UK ad watchdog finds alcohol ads could be targeting children on social media

Alcohol ads could be unwittingly targeting children on social media, an Advertising Standards Authority report has revealed today.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube submitted brand-anonymised data to the ASA for the report to determine the scale of the problem.

The data relates to more than 2,000 alcohol campaigns that ran on these platforms between 1 February 2020 and 31 March 2020.

The research focused on children who were either falsely registered as over the age of 18 or incorrectly thought to be over that age.

The report did not reveal whether the ads were reaching the social media accounts of children, but examined whether ad campaigns were taking the proper steps to mitigate the possibility of reaching minors.

Good practices included ad campaigns specifically targeting people over the age of 25, which minimised the chances of ads reaching those under 18.

Bad practices included no age targeting at all and limited evidence to suggest that advertisers were banning their ads from being shown to those with interests strongly associated with under-18-year-olds.

For instance, the data submitted by Facebook showed that 49% of campaigns on the platform had been aimed at those aged 18 and over. Of those, only 27% used internet-based targeting.

The ASA recommends the use of targeting that identifies whether users may be 18 or under based on their online browsing interests.

The report is the first to work with social media platforms and is part of ASA’s More Impact Online strategy, which aims to regulate damaging advertising. Previous reports have used tech-based monitoring tools to discover the amount of age-restricted ads reaching children online.

Guy Parker, chief executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, said: “Thanks to the support of major online platforms, we’ve revealed unique insights on alcohol brands targeting practices in social media. 

“This partnership has helped us offer specific advice to alcohol advertisers on how they can improve their practices. We now expect to see brands take on this advice to minimise the possibility of their ads being delivered to children.”

Campaign UK

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