Irish research has found junk food brands using young people to market their products via social media. While people are aware of television advertising, the study highlights the less obvious nature of targeted advertising on social media sites such as Facebook. Online marketing can engage young people in fun activities around the brand differently to a simple one-off ad. And viral marketing, where young people “like” or “share” advertising among their friends can have a strong influence on peers.
The sites with the greatest reach amongst 13-14 year olds were brands featuring high fat, sugar and salt products. As well as bold graphics and strong visuals, the sites sought user engagement through ‘likes’ and competitions with a strong emphasis on humour and fun.
The study called for existing Irish regulation of broadcast media to under 18’s to be extended to social media and all other digital platforms.