Diageo pulls ads from Snapchat over age verification concerns

The drinks giant has stopped advertising on Snapchat over concerns that one of its ads for Captain Morgan was reaching users under 18.

Diageo Snapchat

Diageo has pulled its advertising from Snapchat after an ad for its Captain Morgan brand was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

The campaign, which ran in June last year, included a Snapchat lens for Captain Morgan. The lens made the user’s face look like Captain Morgan and featured two glasses of a mixed alcoholic drink clinking together on screen.

The ad was investigated by the ASA after it questioned whether the lens could appeal to people under 18, and was directed at people under the legal drinking age.

The ASA’s main concern surrounded the possibility of users lying about their age to get onto the Snapchat platform – the minimum age is 13 – and therefore might have inadvertently come across the ad. In light of this, it decided to ban the ad.

Marketing Week understands the reliance on self-declared age on Snapchat, which led the ASA to ban the ad, is also the reason Diageo pulled its advertising from the platform. It has not ruled out returning to the platform, as long as new safeguards meet its standards.

“We took all reasonable steps to ensure the content we put on Snapchat was not directed at under 18s – using the data provided to us by Snapchat and applying an age filter. We have now stopped all advertising on Snapchat globally while we assess the incremental age verification safeguards that Snapchat are implementing,” a spokesperson for Diageo said.

Diageo Snapchat
Diageo’s banned Snapchat ad, showing two clinking drinks.

During the ad investigation, Snapchat’s parent company Snap argued the Captain Morgan lens used age-gated targeting to ensure the lens was only delivered to users with a registered age of 18 years and over. This means the lens was not made available in the lens carousel to users under the age of 18.

Demographic data provided by the social platform also showed that 77% of UK Snapchat users were registered as aged 18 years or over in 2016.

The advertising body understood, however, that 13- to 17-year-olds represented one of the largest groups of Snapchat’s total UK audience. It pointed to research conducted by Ofcom, which showed the proportion of 12- to 15-year-olds who said they had a Snapchat account increased from 51% in 2016 to 58% in 2017.

We considered that because the platform was popular with under-18s, [unverified supplied ages and geolocation] was not sufficient to ensure that marketing communications were not targeted at people under 18.

The Advertising Standards Authority

The research also showed that within of group of 104 people aged 8–11 years who had social media accounts, 34% had Snapchat profiles. The ASA therefore believed the report proved that at least some of the audience of children on Snapchat were younger than the minimum age of 13-years-old, thereby calling “into question the adequacy of self-reported age as the sole means of targeting alcohol advertising on Snapchat”.

“We noted that Snap had reported that it now had the means to target ads to specific audiences using “Audience Lenses”, including by way of inferring the audience age using interest based factors,” the body said in its report.

“However, at the time the lens ran, the only targeting data available to Diageo on Snapchat was unverified supplied ages collected when users signed up and geolocation information. We considered that because the platform was popular with under-18s, that was not sufficient to ensure that marketing communications were not targeted at people under 18.”

Snapchat said it was “disappointed” with the ASA’s decision. Despite having introduced more options for age targeting on Snapchat since July last year, it claims Diageo applied “accurate 18+ targeting” at the time.

“The ASA acknowledges the evidence we provided to show that ages supplied by Snapchatters are a robust way to age-restrict ads. Snapchat now offers among the most sophisticated targeting in the industry and by introducing new tools such as audience lenses and incorporating additional signals into our targeting, advertisers have a reliable and flexible way to ensure their ads reach the right audience,” a Snapchat spokesperson told Marketing Week.