Augusto Beato of Portland SEO is batting for tighter rules in alcohol ads in social media.
He was reacting to new research in the current issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs that alcohol advertisements on social media sites such as Facebook can increase young adults' desire to drink if the ads contain pro-drinking comments from users.
Social media users who view alcohol ads are also more likely to "Like" or "Share" an ad when it has pro-drinking comments, the new study shows. "There is more information on social media than just a post or a message. We are exposed to how other users respond to a post, and it is those responses that can influence your desire to drink," said Dr. Jonathan Noel, the study's lead author. "Our findings suggest that comments left by other social media users may either reinforce or negate the message from a post."
With hundreds of corporate-sponsored alcohol ads on social media sites, plus millions of views of alcohol ads on YouTube, alcohol companies have expanded platforms to reach young consumers. The new study suggests that the industry needs to improve the voluntary self-regulatory system that governs its advertising, possibly by limiting or banning comments on social media advertising.
According to the researchers, the current results suggest that comments should be restricted or banned altogether on alcohol ads on social media. Another possibility they suggest is that companies could use the comments sections to promote messages about moderate and responsible drinking.
Beato, who is the CEO of Portland SEO, agrees that comments section should be eliminated in alcohol ads in social media but added that the Like and Share buttons should also be removed.
"Social media sites should take into account the effect of a particular product to the public and make adjustments to protect their welfare," Beato pointed out.
Conducted by Drs. Noel and Thomas Babor at the UConn School of Medicine, the study involved 120 young adults, ages 21 to 24, living in the United States. Each participant viewed four online ads which are actual beer advertisements posted on Facebook. The researchers then chose certain comments that would appear with the ads -- either pro-drinking comments that had accompanied that ad online or anti-drinking comments. The ads also varied on whether there were a high number of Likes, Shares, or Comments.
The lowest desire to drink was found after participants were exposed to ads with anti-drinking comments plus a high "user engagement" such as Likes, Shares, and Comments. Compared with this ad, the desire to drink was 3.5 times higher after participants saw an ad with pro-drinking comments plus high user engagement.
Further, compared with the ads with anti-drinking comments, ads with pro-drinking comments left participants more than twice as likely to say they would Like or Share the ad.
Overall, though, the researchers say it wasn't the number of Likes, Shares, and Comments that appeared to influence the participants but the type of comments -- that is, comments for or against alcohol.
Currently, alcohol advertisers have a system of self-regulation in place intended to limit depictions of excessive use and appeal to young people, among other restrictions.
SOURCE: Press Advantage [Link]
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