In the autumn of 2017, Diageo ran a series of promotional tweets for its Captain Morgan rum brand, aimed at new students. The ASA received a complaint about one of the tweets, which read “When your student loan hits your bank account… Like if you’re celebrating! #Freshers #LikeACaptain” and included a two-second gif of piratical fist-pumping.
(Just an aside, but it is notable that yet again, an ASA adjudication into an important principle of social media regulation has been triggered by a single complaint. Who is this phantom menace that haunts the world of social media, lodging convenient complaints with the ASA? We are beginning to think this smells a bit fishy.)
Diageo was in trouble with the ASA not long ago for another social media ad for Captain Morgan’s, but this time no-one was forced to walk the plank. On that occasion, the ASA steadfastly and even stubbornly refused to accept the data from both the platform and the brand that showed that it not have particular appeal to the under 18's.
This time, three factors helped to persuade the ASA that this latest bit of social media buccaneering was not in breach of the Code in terms of inappropriate targeting of under-18s:
1. Twitter is demonstrably largely used by over-18s (between 81% and 91% according to analysis cited in the ruling);
2. The ASA accepts that there is no guarantee of avoiding all under-18s (because younger users often misreport their age), but it makes sense - as Diageo did - to target only users registered as 18 or over;
3. To further boost the appropriate targeting of tweets, marketers can select interest-based factors popular with adults and de-select factors popular with under-18s (Diageo did this effectively by targeting those who had recently used keywords “uni” or “fresher”).
So if you have age-restricted products to promote, you might want to tweet like a certain Captain.
Because Twitter was a medium primarily used by those aged 18 and over and Captain Morgan had targeted the ad at users registered as 18 and over, and because the interest-based targeting helped further exclude under-18s from the target audience, we concluded that the ad had not been directed at those under 18.