Independent study shows low ad exposure to alcohol ads online

Mar 29th '22

Global study using avatar technology predicts that just 0.82% of all ads online are for alcohol brands.


An independent study, using the same technology as employed by regulators in Europe and the UK, has shown how low people’s exposure is to alcohol ads online. In fact, just 0.82% of all ads seen online by consumers are for alcohol brands.


The study, which was commissioned by World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), was conducted by independent research firm Nielsen using avatars that mimic the real experience of being online.


Conducted across 12 major markets including Brazil, Spain and Japan, The Digital Avatar Project found that marketing of alcohol beverages forms a tiny fraction of the digital advertising seen by consumers.


In total, 121,232 ads were analysed, captured by the avatars visiting 100 URLs per market over a period of three weeks in October 2021.


The key findings of the study are:


  • 0.82% of all ads seen online are for alcohol (all ages);
  • A minor would be served one alcohol ad per 420 websites visited;
  • This would translate to a minor being served only one alcohol ad per 18 hours 41 mins spent online.


“There is a narrative that suggests that minors are being bombarded by alcohol ads. This study demonstrates this simply isn’t the case and offers useful perspective in terms of the size of the perceived problem. That said, WFA continues to work with its partners and members so that brand safety controls strive to eliminate minors’ exposure to alcohol brand messages online” said WFA CEO Stephan Loerke.


About this study

The Digital Avatar Project used four avatars (simulated consumer profiles) to track advertising activity across 12 markets (Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, and Spain). Through the findings, Nielsen estimated the general pervasiveness of alcohol advertising, as well as the probabilistic rate of a minor’s exposure to alcohol advertising.


The study employed four simulated consumer profiles, also known as avatars: Child Under 12, Teenager 12-17, Adult and Neutral. The media universe was formulated as a mix of sites and YouTube channels popular with – and having content/genre affinity with – teen and child audiences, as well as generally top-ranking sites and channels, to achieve a simulation of the average browsing habits in each country. Only non-logged-in environments were covered by the study.


Each of the four avatars visited 100 primary URLs across both desktop and mobile devices, with a randomly selected subpage also monitored. This created 1,600 hits a day per country. The study ran for 21 days between 7th and 27th Oct 2021, resulting in a total of 33,600 hits per country, for a total of 403,200. The total number of ads captured by all avatars is 121,232.


Source: WFA


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