Could the IARD and alcohol brands initiative signal bigger changes in social media ad targeting?

Last week, the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) announced an initiative to control more tightly who can and can’t see ads for alcohol brands on social media. Could this initiative signal bigger changes in social media ad targeting?

IARD is a not-for-profit organisation, whose mission is to reduce harmful drinking. It does a lot of work to raise awareness of responsible drinking, and is supported by all the giants of the alcohol industry (including some of our clients). This latest campaign sees IARD, the alcohol industry and social media platforms working together to find solutions to stop underage people from seeing alcohol ads, and to help people avoid alcohol ads if they wish to.

Getting the big social networks to sign up to the challenge is a massive step forward for an industry that has for many years been driving standards in responsible advertising, and is committed to responsible drinking messages. We know from our own work with alcohol brands how real that commitment is, and how carefully the industry is regulated.

But what’s really interesting is whether this signals a wider shift from the social networks. Could it lead the way for other industries that want to have more control over where their ads appear on social media?

YouTube, in particular, has come under fire over the past 12 months from both the Advertising Standards Authority and advertisers themselves, over targeting ads inappropriately. Brands have seen their ads placed next to extremist content or next to predatory comments under videos targeting children, for example. A number of brands paused advertising on YouTube until the network could give them better control over where their ads appeared. As a result, YouTube reportedly cut upwards of 50,000 channels, and announced a number of measures to improve control over where ads appear, including better vetting of channels, improved moderation, and giving advertisers more control over targeting.

It goes without saying that social media platforms need the advertising dollars from brands to support their revenue models. So when their biggest advertisers want change, the platforms will start to find solutions. There will be changes in social media ad targeting.
Alcohol brands could be paving the way for better brand targeting and consumer control not just in their industry, but across other all other industries too.

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