Rum brand Captain Morgan has been rapped by the UK's advertising watchdog the ASA for a campaign it ran on Snapchat in June 2017.
The brand, owned by Diageo, paid for a Snapchat lens that made people look like its Captain Morgan mascot, complete with virtual glasses clinking on-screen.
The ASA investigation was triggered by fears that the lens would be seen and used by people aged under 18 – a major no-no for alcohol advertising – as well as by the use of a cartoon-pirate icon to access it.
The ASA's ruling against Diageo is well worth a read. It outlines the arguments made by Captain Morgan and Snap, including the latter's claim that "in 2016, 77% of UK Snapchat users were registered as aged 18 years or over" – thus meeting UK ad-industry rules that alcohol shouldn't be advertised on any medium where more than 25% of the audience are under 18.
Captain Morgan also argued that it used age-gated targeting to ensure its lens was only accessible for Snapchat users who were 18 or older. However, the ASA noted in its ruling that at the time of the lens, this age-gating was based purely on "unverified supplied ages collected when users signed up".
The ruling also notes recent data from communications regulator Ofcom suggesting that 58% of British 12-15 year-olds using social media said they had a Snapchat account in 2017, and 34% for 8-11 year-olds who were on social media.
Hence the ruling going against Captain Morgan, despite the age-gating used for its lens. That's a warning for any brand considering working with social-media influencers on campaigns: even when it's seemingly possible to ensure that content isn't seen by minors, that may not be enough to satisfy the regulators.