- Alcoholic beverage producer and distributor Diageo has suspended all Snapchat advertising after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the U.K.'s advertising watchdog, said the company failed to ensure that one of its Captain Morgan rum campaigns wasn't seen by individuals under 18, the U.K.'s legal drinking age, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal.
- The ASA ruling focuses on a Captain Morgan Sponsored Lens Snapchat campaign that ran in June, where users could alter pictures of themselves to look like the brand's signature pirate alongside two clinking glasses. ASA ruled that the campaign breached the U.K.'s advertising code because, even though it was targeted at users 18 or older, it appealed to younger users and targeting was based on unverified data since Snapchat users self-report their ages.
- After the Captain Morgan campaign, Snap Inc., Snapchat's parent company, launched Audience Lenses, a new type of Sponsored Lenses, allowing marketers to direct ads at certain age groups, as well as lifestyle categories that target users' interests and activities. Ad targeting based on behavioral data could help keep age-appropriate content out of the hands of underage audiences.
The ASA ruling against Diageo, though campaign-specific, could encourage marketers of alcohol brands or other products only legally available to adults to be more careful when running campaigns on platforms that are popular with young people, especially platforms where users self-report their ages, including Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. Overall, marketers are looking for greater clarity into their digital ad buys — and threatening to take their dollars elsewhere if they don't get it — which is why platforms like Snapchat are taking steps such as enhanced targeting to ensure brands have more control over their investments.
While the Diageo campaign targeted users over 18, ASA questioned the accuracy of Snapchat's data. The minimum age to sign up for a Snapchat account is 13, but research shows many users are even younger. EMarketer estimates that there are 1.2 million Snapchat users under age 11, and 15.8 million between 12 and 17. Diageo, which has gotten into trouble with ASA before, has suspended its ads on Snapchat while it assess the effectiveness of the incremental age verification being put place, according to the Journal.
The news is a blow to Snapchat, which went public to great fanfare last year but has stumbled since with slow user growth and proving its ongoing relevance to brands. Alcohol brands, including Heineken and William Grant & Sons distilleries, owner of Glenfiddich whisky and Hendrick's Gin, have also questioned the accuracy of Snapchat's age data and have been reluctant to advertise on Snapchat over age-targeting concerns. Others have embraced Snapchat. Champagne maker Moet recently debuted a Snapchat game, called "Moet & Chandon Tower Toss," as part of its holiday advertising campaign. In addition to using Snapchat's age-targeting tools, Moet also asked players to enter their birthdates before playing the game to ensure that they were over 21.