Pressure on for Snapchat and social peers after global Diageo withdrawal, say PRs

Drinks giant Diageo's decision to stop all global advertising on Snapchat has been praised for its swiftness and clarity - but the regulatory decision that prompted it should ring warning bells for social networks, according to comms pros.

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) today admonished Diageo for two separate breaches relating to a Snapchat lens for rum brand Captain Morgan, which it said was likely to appeal to under-18s.

The ASA also cited research that showed that a third of 8 to 11-year-olds had a Snapchat account, despite the platform's minimum age being 13.

Diageo said it was stopping all Snapchat advertising while it assessed "the incremental age verification safeguards that Snapchat are implementing", while a spokeswoman for Snap told PRWeek sister title Campaign it disagreed with the ruling, and the suggestion that many Snapchat users would have incorrectly claimed to be aged over 18.

'Swift action'

Diageo's reaction, announced as the embargo lifted this morning on the ASA's ruling, was praised by Andrew Bloch, founder and group MD of Frank, who said: "Diageo has done well to act swiftly... they have made it clear that they have not intentionally directed their campaign to an underage audience."

Laura Weightman, head of social media at Manchester's Tangerine Communications, added: "Whilst it is highly likely that Diageo believed they were targeting over-18s, it is inevitable that an ad of this nature, on this platform, is going to appeal to a younger audience.

She went on to say: "With such strict rules regarding advertising to children, not just Snapchat but other platforms, too, will need to be more transparent and accurate with their data, moving forward."

And she said that the ASA and other regulators would be increasingly on the lookout for issues of this nature.

"To date, the rules that apply to more traditional forms of media have been much more lenient when it comes to social, but as more and more brands switch to a 'social first' strategy I think we'll see more rulings like this in the future and not just with alcohol brands."

Snapchat on the defensive

Bloch added that the ruling had left Snapchat "on the defensive about its age verification", putting a spotlight on the "importance of responsible marketing, specifically in regards to appealing to children".

He said: "Brands need to wake up to the importance of brand safety and ensure they take sufficient measures to avoid controversy and resulting brand damage. Social platforms need to tackle the problem efficiently and effectively in order to rebuild trust, protect ad revenues and drive growth."

Weightman said that the issue was one of transparency. "These apps, that we use daily, know so much about us and yet they’re not so forthcoming with their own information," she commented.

The news follows a year in which fellow web giants YouTube and Google also tussled with brand safety issues.

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