In the Doghouse

Diageo Targets Youth on Instagram

by Holley Shafer

March 17, 2015

Following in its own footsteps of the first alcohol/Facebook partnership, Diageo is now the first to bring alcohol advertising to youth on Instagram, courtesy of P Diddy and his Ciroc partnership. The 6-week Ciroc/Diddy/Instagram campaign includes a video with the potential to expose hundreds of thousands of underage youth to Ciroc.

Diageo claims it is targeting millenial consumers, but multiple market studies have documented Instagram's appeal to the youth demographic. Market research results have identified Instagram as the most popular social networking app among teenagers, noting that 76% of teens surveyed said they use Instagram; the same survey found that 38% said using Instagram would be a "favorable marketing channel to reach them." Why would Diageo dedicate part of its M&A budget to an Instagram campaign if it didn't want to focus on that particular audience?

Instagram is rated as appropriate for age 12+ on the Apple App Store. Ciroc's warning on its Instagram that users must be 21 or older to follow or view is false and misleading. Instagram users can access the Ciroc Instagram page and follow the brand without specifying their birthdate in their account. (Users can also sign up for an Instagram account, post photos, and follow/be followed without entering their birthdate into the system.) A quick glance at the Ciroc Instagram page shows a Ciroc follower who describes himself as 20 years old commenting on a photo of Diddy last month. This is just one of the many concerning examples. Diageo and P Diddy have already targeted youth of color by focusing on the NBA and hip-hop culture in Ciroc marketing.

As a mother of a 12-year-old whose friends all use Instagram, I find Diageo's blatant attempt to reach tweens and teens with alcohol marketing reprehensible. As noted previously, there is no meaningful recourse for parents who are concerned about Big Alcohol companies targeting their children. Industry guidelines allow companies to overexpose youth to targeted promotions. Alcohol industry trade groups such as the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) write their own vague, subjective guidelines that pertain only to trade group members/funders and have nonexistent monitoring, enforcement, or penalties, and trumpet their dedication to safety.

Given the obvious Instagram youth demographic, Diageo appears to be violating its own code with its 6-week Ciroc campaign - leading the charge to target youth in the digital sphere.

See our reports on Why Big Alcohol Can't Police Itself: A Review of Advertising Self-Regulation in the Distilled Spirits Industry and Alcohol Promotion and Facebook .