LONDON: Global drinks giant Diageo has suspended all its advertising on Snapchat following a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority which found that the messaging app had not installed sufficient safeguards to make sure the ads were not available and not appealing to users under 18.

The ASA said that that a ‘Sponsored Lens’ on Snap’s flagship app, Snapchat, which featured the Captain Morgan rum brand’s signature pirate alongside two glasses had been shown to minors and ruled that this breached the code by being likely to appeal to younger users, having also been “inappropriately targeted.”

The Authority added: “We considered that the specific interactive and augmented elements of the lens, such as the user’s face being made to look like a buccaneer, the clinking glasses, references to “Captain” and the cheering, were likely to appeal particularly to those under 18.”

Though Diageo says it “took all reasonable steps” to make sure it was not targeted at minors, the data used to target it was based on unverified age information that users input when they are opening a Snapchat account.

For Diageo, however, Snap provided data in 2016 showing that 77% of UK users were registered as over 18, crossing the threshold imposed by the UK ad code that stipulates alcoholic not be advertised on media platforms when more than 25% of users are under 18.

“Snap Inc. shared confidential data with us about their UK audience”, the authority continued. “From their response, we understood that a significant minority of UK based Snapchat users were registered as being between 13 and 17 years old and that they represented one of the largest groups of their total UK audience.”

Both Diageo and Snap expressed disappointment at the ruling. “We have a strict marketing code, take our role as a responsible marketer very seriously and acknowledge the ASA’s ruling”, a spokesperson for Diageo told Campaign.

Andrew Bloch, founder and group MD of UK PR agency Frank, suggested that the ruling had left Snapchat “on the defensive about its age verification”.

“Brands need to wake up to the importance of brand safety and ensure they take sufficient measures to avoid controversy and resulting brand damage,” he told PR Week.

“Social platforms need to tackle the problem efficiently and effectively in order to rebuild trust, protect ad revenues and drive growth.”

Sourced from the Advertising Standards Authority, Campaign, PR Week; additional content by WARC staff