Social Media Ads Appeal To Kids More Than Adults, Researchers Find

October 26, 2021
Gambling advertising on social media is significantly more appealing to children and young people than to adults, research suggests.


Gambling advertising on social media is significantly more appealing to children and young people than to adults, research suggests.

Disguised gambling marketing and adverts for betting on esports are especially alluring as they trigger positive emotions in under 25 year-olds, a University of Bristol study found.

A poll of more than 650 children, young people and adults across the UK suggested the vast majority of adults were wary or annoyed when faced with gambling adverts, but children mainly reacted positively.

The academic report calls for tighter regulations for gambling content marketing, as well as a ban on esports gambling advertising to cut the risk of youngsters becoming problem gamblers.

It adds that social media platforms should only allow gambling adverts on social media when users actively opt-in to receive them.

Co-lead investigator Dr Raffaello Rossi, a marketing lecturer at the university, said: "The overwhelming strong appeal of gambling advertising on social media to children is of huge concern, as it is known the earlier people start gambling the more likely it will become habitual and problematic.

"Many of the adverts may look entirely innocent and harmless, but they in fact pose a serious risk of getting a whole new generation of gamblers hooked on a serious addiction which has devastating consequences."

An online survey of 210 children aged 11 to 17 years-old, 222 young people aged 18 to 24 and 221 adults aged 25 to 78 in the UK was carried out between May and July in 2020 as part of the study.

The survey suggested that nearly half (45 percent) of children and nearly three in four (72 percent) of young people saw gambling advertising on Twitter at least once a week, and a quarter of children (25 percent) and 37 percent of young people said they were exposed to gambling adverts on social media every day.

All 653 participants were exposed to 24 different Twitter gambling adverts during the study to investigate different emotional responses.

The vast majority of gambling adverts on Twitter (19 out of 24) were more appealing to children and young people than adults, the report found.

Nearly two thirds of the adverts (15 out of 24) prompted positive emotions such as happiness, calmness or delight in both children and young people, whereas less than a third (seven out of 24) triggered a positive emotional response among older adults, according to the findings.

Adults were found to be four times more likely to react negatively, feeling distress, anger or tension when exposed to gambling adverts on Twitter.

Esports gambling adverts were also found to be much more appealing to children and young people than adults, the report suggests.

The research is the latest evidence concerning the dangers of gambling advertising for youngsters as the industry prepares for a government white paper on reforms to the Gambling Act.

Earlier this yearm the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that online gambling advertisers should be doing more to shield young people from their marketing, while the UK Gambling Commission has told operators their marketing should make better use of “ad tech” to ensure adverts are not seen by children.

Kev Clelland, strategic alliance director at the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) charity, said: "The findings support the evidence we submitted to the Gambling Act Review where we called for more to be done to minimise the exposure that children have to gambling advertising.

"All gambling advertising should be designed and displayed in a way that is appropriate for adults and avoids marketing techniques that appeal to children.

"There is opportunity to strengthen advertising protections and both the advertisers and the platforms which host adverts should use technology and data to do more."

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said: "We are committed to protecting people at risk of gambling-related harm. That's why we are undertaking the most comprehensive review of gambling laws in 15 years to ensure they are fit for the digital age — this includes marketing and advertising wherever it appears.”

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