Heineken UK Exposes Kids to Alcohol Ads

Heineken UK is using influencer marketing to expose minors to alcohol ads.

Heineken recently teamed up with UK social media influencer Tanya Burr to promote a home draught beer pump to her 3 million instagram followers, including minors. The promotion with Heineken featured her pouring beer from a home pump and offering viewers a 40% off promotional code.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received six complaints from the public that the ad was inappropriately targeted due to the influencer’s popularity with under 18s.

The ASA dismissed the complaints against Ms Burr’s Instagram promotion after Heineken provided analysis of Ms Burr’s audience saying only 11% were under 18. Instagram allows users to have an account from age 13 upwards.

According to the ASA, Heineken’s promotion is not in breach of the law since it was targeting under 25% minors and was not designed to appeal to minors.

The Advertising Standards Authority is the self-regulatory organisation of the advertising industry in the United Kingdom. The ASA is a non-statutory organisation and so cannot interpret or enforce legislation.

Alcohol prevention NGOs question the ruling

However, two alcohol prevention NGOs have questioned the ruling pointing out that, like most social networks, Instagram has no effective method of age verifying its users.

They argued the ruling could open the door to more influencers, who are looked up to by young people, cashing in on promotions with alcohol brands.

We need regulation on alcohol marketing that takes into account what teenagers do online in the real world, not a blank cheque for alcohol companies and social media influencers who target teenagers,” said Katherine Severi, Chief Executive at the Institute of Alcohol Studies, as per The Telegraph.

There are several issues with disregarding this complaint.

  • Firstly as instagram does not have age verifying methods, minors could simply have their age as 18 in their profiles.
  • Secondly, even if it is only 11% minors following the profile the harm from exposure is still the same for the kids who do see this ad.
  • Thirdly, as the charities stated, this could be used as an opportunity by the alcohol industry and other influencers to expose more kids to alcohol ads.

It’s been scientifically proven that exposure to brand related marketing increases brand specific alcohol consumption among youth.

Relationship Between Exposure To Brand-Specific Alcohol Advertising And Brand-Specific Consumption

Further as many minors and youth follow social media influencers, this method of marketing is specially potent and perpetuates the pervasive alcohol norm. Public health policies should focus on protecting all kids from exposure to alcohol ads.

Without proper regulation online advertising is the Wild West of the marketing world, and it’s the most vulnerable, including minors, who suffer most,” said a spokesperson of Alcohol Change UK, as per The Telegraph.