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ASA ruling on audience composition – Tanya Burr

Published on 07 November 2019

What evidence must a business provide to show audience composition?

The key takeaway

Use data from multiple sources when trying to prove audience demographics.

The ad

The ads which were the subject of the complaint were two Instagram posts which appeared on popular influencer, Tanya Burr’s, Instagram story. The first, a post on 5 April 2019, had a picture of a Heineken beer; the second, a post on 24 April 2019, consisted of an image of a Heineken being poured and the words “Swipe up to get 40% off all Subs using the code INSTA40”.

The complaint

There were six complainants who contended that, given Tanya Burr was so well-known and well followed by under 18 year olds, that the beer ads were inappropriately targeted. 

The response

In response to the accusation that the ads had been inappropriately directed at under 18’s by virtue of Tanya Burr being popular with kids, Heineken used three different accounts to show a demographic of Tanya Burr’s followers:
  • a data collection site, which used publically available information on Tanya Burr’s Instagram account to highlight that only 11% of Tanya Burr’s followers were under the age of 18
  • a global data company, which looks at Instagram activity such as views, likes and comments to posts, measured that only 7.1% of Tanya Burr’s audience was under the age of 18
  • demographic evidence from Instagram itself which revealed the same as the data collection site, that only 11% of Tanya Burr’s followers were under the age of 18. 
Tanya Burr also challenged the complaints using the demographic data provided by Instagram.

The decision

The CAP Code (18.15) states that “Marketing communications must not be directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. No medium should be used to advertise alcoholic drinks if more than 25% of its audience is under 18 years of age.” 

The ASA considered the nature of Tanya Burr’s Instagram account and whether it might be appealing to those under 18 years of age. The ASA decided that Tanya Burr’s account would be more suited to those over 18 years old and that the data provided from the three different sources that Heineken presented, proved that less than 25% of Tanya Burr’s followers were under 18. 

Why is this important

These types of complaints for age-restricted products (HFSS, alcohol and gambling etc) are becoming more and more common in the UK. The adjudication is a good example of a brand getting it right and having the appropriate data to be able to successfully defend a complaint (particularly in an influencer marketing context). It is also interesting that the ASA took into account the nature of Tanya Burr’s Instagram posts and not just the evidence provided. This shows that the content itself should not be more appealing to those under 18 than over 18, even if the composition of the influencer’s audience is compliant with the CAP code. 

Practical tips

If you are using an influencer to advertise an age-restricted product: (1) check the demographics of their followers on numerous data sources (and hold records of this data on file); and (2) check whether the nature of the posts might in any case be attractive to children.

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