TIL … Tips for advertising acceptably on Reddit

Jan 25th '24

Created in 2005, Reddit has seen millions of posts over the years. Features such as Reddit AMA’s (Ask Me Anything’s) allow companies to sell products and services in a more conversational way. However, it is the platform’s (very) specific audiences within different subreddits (individual communities) that continues to draw marketers in – everything from beer to mushroom foraging to photo restoration is covered.


In this article, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) look at how the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has judged some advertising on Reddit to offer some useful insights.


TL;DR? Follow the CAP Code.


  • They didn’t meme it

Our first case concerns the Spider-Man pointing meme being used by a gambling brand but gambling ads must not appeal strongly to children. It was the advertisers’ understanding that the ad was going to be targeted at people who had already shown an interest in gambling, and therefore, this was unlikely to include children. However, the ASA considered that, whilst the post was based on a popular meme, Spider-Man was likely to appeal strongly to children and it wasn’t possible to reliably exclude all under-18s with sufficient certainty to permit such imagery on that platform. As such, the complaint was upheld.


Reddit, even though they confirmed they had received no complaints about the ad, changed their policy following this case to ensure that any future paid-for gambling ads did not include cartoon characters.


  • Extra refreshing

Our next case also deals with appeal to children, but this time in relation to alcohol, which has a slightly different ‘particular appeal’ test. The ad in question was a paid-for Reddit ad for Heineken and featured a computer-generated image of a man.


In this instance, the advertiser defended their ad, stating that the character was entirely fictional and held no latent appeal. He was also an adult male wearing muted colours, which minimised appeal to kids. Furthermore, the ad did not play into traits or insecurities of young people, nor did it contain any other elements, such as music, which would appeal to youth culture. In this instance, the ASA agreed with the advertiser – they noted that, whilst the characters were stylised and looked like gaming avatars, that stylisation would not appeal to under-18s over and above over-18s. As such, the ASA thought the ad was acceptable.


  • Crypto-keepers

Our last (and slightly different) case in our advisory triptych is for an online wallet and money transfer service.  The paid-for ad featured the headline “Want to try making a profit on crypto without risking your money? Sign up now and give crypto a go, for free…” and a video which included the claim “Want to try crypto risk-free?” A complainant challenged whether the promotion was irresponsible because it took advantage of consumers’ inexperience or credulity, and the ASA challenged whether the ad should have illustrated the risk in investing.


The advertiser argued that the primary function of the ad was to advertise the possibility of free money, and that they did not think the ad suggested the crypto came without risks. They also said that because the ad was about free money, it was not a marcom for cryptocurrency or any other investment – plus, there was no evidence to suggest the Reddit users who saw the ad did not have experience or knowledge of crypto. However, the ASA disagreed, explaining that the impression given by the ad was that crypto was simple and conventional, and offered no warnings, including about the lack of regulation. Because of this, they concluded the ad took advantage of inexperience and/or credulity.


The advertiser in this instance did not share the subreddits they had targeted, nor why they chose to advertise on Reddit. That said, cryptocurrency and NFTs are popular products to advertise on the platform. Some marketers may think that, because Redditors tend to be more computer-literate or “techie” internet users that they will be familiar with products such as cryptocurrency. However, the truth is that these products are complex, and users may be unlikely to understand the intricacies or risks of the product, even if they have a vague familiarity with it.


  • Don’t risk karma

As we have seen, since Reddit is perhaps a more adult-orientated platform, some might think there’s no need to take extra steps to ensure that only adults see the content or assume that adults will fully understand their product or service.


It’s important to remember that when targeting, you must take all steps possible to ensure the ad is only seen by the right audience. Furthermore, marketers should never assume that customers already know everything they might need to, regardless of the platform.


Keep Redditing, but don’t forget that targeting niche audiences alone might not be enough to remain compliant.


Source: CAP


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