A UK charity believes that alcohol companies are specifically targeting minors when they promote their products on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They recommend that alcohol advertising should be banned on social networks.
The charity Alcohol Concern says that websites and activities that alcohol companies have established through social networks – like games, competitions and videos of drinking parties – specifically target minors on these networks.
It also claims that viral marketing efforts will likely eventually reach minors online, even if they aren’t directly targeted.
As the Daily Mail reports, the charity found that one half of children between the ages of eight and 17 have a profile on either Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. They also found that the alcohol brands most popular with minors (including Bacardi, Smirnoff and Budweiser) have a presence on these social networks.
The report recommends that all official advertising from alcohol companies be banned on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and that companies should shut down alcohol-related sites set up by the public.
I believe that it’s true that alcohol companies have the potential to advertise to children via social networks, but it’s not clear that they are specifically targeting them. A minor could see an alcohol ad in nearly any other context, including in restaurants with their families and on billboards while driving down the road. Just because something is being tweeted and retweeted, doesn’t mean it’s any different from an off-line ad in terms of what age groups have the chance to see it.
Banning alcohol companies from using social media would be seriously limiting to their ability to advertise and make money, regardless of what your personal beliefs on the situation are. It would also be close to censorship, especially if the aspect of the report which calls for websites set up by the public which promote drinking to be taken down.
What’s your opinion on the matter? Should children be shielded from alcohol ads on social media? Let us know in the comments!