Social Media has forever changed the landscape of advertising. There are countless benefits that come with this new advertising medium, brands are now able to market their products with greater accuracy and for a fraction of the cost. However, as with any new form of technology, there have also been multiple unforeseen cons as well. On social media platforms such as Twitter, minors are often subjected to inappropriate marketing, generating unethical advertising practices. While certain social media platforms such as Facebook ask for the date of birth of their users, Twitter does not. With nearly one in four teenagers using Twitter, Twitter is a great platform for brands to come into contact with this demographic.
Society has retreated from advertising tobacco products in mainstream media due to our understanding of its harmful, lasting effects, however, alcoholic products still run rampant in many mediums from product placement in movies, to Super Bowl commercials, to social media. One area of growing concern, is the impact of advertising alcoholic beverages to an impressionable adolescent audience. In fact, more than half of minors reported that they have seen alcohol advertising online.
Advertising alcohol to minors can have lasting effects on their alcoholic consumption throughout their lifetime. A recent study showed that minors that were exposed to alcohol ads consumed twice as many drinks over the course of a month compared to their counterparts who were not exposed to any alcohol ads. The study concluded, that the exposure teenagers had to alcohol ads increased the amount they consumed of the brands that were advertised.
Twitter has lagged some of their social media counterparts such as Instagram and Facebook implementing policies to regulate alcohol advertising. While the self-regulated alcohol industry has tried to police alcohol brands from marketing to minors, Twitter has no way of validating the age of their users. All that is required of Twitter users at sign up is an email and name. Certain established brands will ask Twitter users for their date of birth before you can follow, however, there are still numerous alcohol brands do not ask for a user’s date of birth. This allows numerous brands to market their product on a medium in which they know they are reaching minors.
Alcohol is a self-policing industry, leading to loose policies. As a result, fines for infractions are small and rules are not always enforced, which does little to force the industry to re-evaluate their marketing strategies or reflect on the underlying ethical issue.
Alcohol is targeted both directly and indirectly to minors in various mediums whether it be in PG-13 movies, sporting events or social media. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each industry to ensure that they are responsibly advertising their products to the appropriate consumer. If brands are unwilling to take the extra step by validating the age of their followers on Twitter, then they should exclusively resort to advertising tactics in which they know primarily` caters to a legal audience.
I have been influenced by advertisements, especially in my adolescence, whether it be through traditional media, product placements, or endorsements. While I have been negatively affected by ads, they can also be positive. Advertising has an important role in society; it helps push culture and mold social norms. It is important for the industry to be as ethical as possible so that the world we live in is more up lifting.