How Brands use Targeting of Content to Market Toward Minors

targeting ads to minors

You know that feeling when you inadvertently click on an ad not even realizing it was an ad for a company? Well, you have been subjected to targeted marketing content…

What is Brand Targeting of Content?

Content targeting is a way for companies and brands to deliver ads that individually are relevant to each person conducting searches on the Internet. This allows advertisers to match keywords from their ads to words of websites and content that you could be searching. There are two popular ways that brands do this currently: 

  • Keyword matching
  • Ad auctioning

Keyword matching works by the search engine matching your key worries and searches to keywords and advertisers advertisements. If there’s a consistent match then the ad is given eligibility to be displayed toward the person searching close to those keywords.

Ad auctioning works very similarly in the form of a regular auction. The strategy is for companies such as Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or search engines such as Google and Youtube to have advertisers bid against each other to have their ad shown to the audience they’re trying to target on their platforms.

Why is Content Targeting an Issue with Minors?

For brands to be successful on social media platforms, they need engagement. One of the better ways to get engagement in the day and age we are now is by displaying their brand as “fun and “friendly”. Through pictures, memes and videos that relate to popular entertainment and media, they are constantly attempting to create an engagement for their company without you realizing it and this could be especially harmful for children in particular.

In the figure above, Wendy’s is creating a ”fun and friendly” atmosphere around its company by cresting memes about its food and customers.

Some do not see this way of advertisement to promote your company to be as harmful as it is portrayed. However, this is a really big issue for kids because unlike adults, children under the age of seventeen tend to have a harder time recognizing these as ads due to their lack of experience and exposure to such ads. Pictures and videos that they might find amusing that they retweet and share with their friends when some could contain negative imagining or promoting a product that children should not be connecting themselves with at such a young age. Unlike the image above the shows Wendy’s creating that friendly atmosphere around its customers, if a company that promoted firearms sales were to post something similar under some same keywords, it could associate that image or video with that company and could encourage young children to what to learn more about such things that they should not have any concern in doing.

Brand Targeting and the Effects it has on Minors

Other ways ads are targeting children both digitally and in the real world are with food advertisements. Most ads targeted to children promote high calorie low nutrient foods that result in higher rates of child obesity. Research found that popular celebrities endorse more than 80% of food ads promoted to children endorse unhealthy foods. 

Other ways that brands have been known to target kids with electronic cigarettes and alcohol in a study by the CDC found that during 2016  roughly four out of every five students between the ages of thirteen and seventeen were exposed to some form of an e-cigarette ad through social media or videos. As of today those e-cigarette companies have removed their social media accounts and cut ties with influencers, hashtags and other media marketing to help combat underage targeting. 

Above is a video that goes more into depth of popular e-cigarette, Juul that took the world by storm in 2016. Juul came under heavy fire for targeting their ads to minors as young as the age of eight years old

Alcoholic beverage companies have also participated in targeting minors with flavors and child-like characters to help promote their drinks. With underage drinking being a large issue in the united states, multiple studies conducted found that exposure to these alcoholic advertisements toward kids in among those in high school, middle school and younger children lead to higher risk of car crashes, drug abuse and other alcoholic disorders in their futures.

in 2016, Disney and Mike’s Hard Lemonade came under major scrutiny and was accused of targeting minors for using a children’s superhero to endorse its alcoholic beverages.

Self-image and cultural appearance is also a major factoid in this as ads for skin lightening and hair products can unintentionally convey racial biases. Seeing such advertisements at such a young age can give a wrong representation of what the “perfect’ person is supposed to look like.

What we can do to limit this Brand Targeting?

Current policy makers, social media companies and brands are trying to adopt more strict regulations such as banning commercial advertising entirely for children under the age of seven, banning targeted ads to those younger than 18 years of age and limiting advertisement as a whole for children and teens. 

For those who are parents of young children and teens trying to figure out what you can do on your own here are some great suggestions:

  • monitoring privacy settings on their apps, social media and your wireless networks.
  • Talking to teachers or school adminsitration about avoiding inappropriate advertisements in class as well as using privacy settings on school laptops and computers.
  • Using family plans on their personal devices that help with data collection in preventing those targeted ads from reaching your children.

Published by tajthomas21

I'm a Senior at Coastal Carolina majoring in business management and engineering.

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