If advertising didn’t affect us, no one would be spending millions of dollars to buy commercial time on television or billboards along the highways. The fact is, advertising does have an impact. With the explosion of social media outlets over the past decade, advertising has been given a new channel for marketing. The problem is that there is no way to limit access to the marketing of products intended for older viewers. Alcohol marketing on social media, for example, is reaching down and touching younger and younger audiences.
A couple of studies have recently been published which highlight the concerns about social media as a marketing tool for alcohol companies. The first study, conducted in New Zealand, concluded that social sites have become thinly-veiled advertising platforms and are being used extensively by alcohol companies. Social sites provide priceless consumer information and consumer interactions.
Advertisers Flooding Social Media
The very things that users love about social media – virtual relationships and regular updates – are the things advertisers find easy to leverage. Through social media alcohol makers and potential alcohol consumers can create a pseudo-relationship. Furthermore, social sites are treasure troves of user information – the precise information that marketers use to design successful ad campaigns. Alcohol-branded or related online events created to appeal to younger consumers attract large numbers of friends, followers and producer-consumer interactions. Bingo!
The second study was performed in the U.K. by the group Charity Alcohol Concern. This study found that alcohol companies are making full use of social media and video-sharing sites in order to promote their product. Ads created with younger adult audiences in mind are readily available to minors however. At present, there is no way to prevent minors from viewing adult-intended content. This means that young kids are being bombarded with images of alcohol as normal, fun and appropriate. Ads do affect behavior.
Drunk Friends And Advertisers On Social Sites Normalizing Kids’ Thoughts Of Alcohol
The U.K. study reported that nearly 50 percent of youngsters, ages eight to 17 have a social page somewhere in spite of the fact that most sites say kids must be 13 years old at least in order to register. Underage kids have social addresses and they are visiting social addresses. The study found that nearly 30 percent of those 13 to 15 years have seen photos of drunken friends on a social site. All of this works together to normalize alcohol consumption in the minds of underage kids.
The U.K. study did present some suggestions. They recommended that no formal marketing of alcohol be permitted via social media and asked site administrators to take responsibility for discouraging the presence of alcohol logos on their sites. Social media sites do not fall under the purview of normal regulations yet there is no doubt that they are being used to influence youth toward greater alcohol consumption. At the moment, there does not appear much which can be done to reign in the practice.