Some Alcohol Brands are Taking the Wooderson Approach to Snapchat

I recently (okay, in July) read this story about alcohol brands starting to advertise on Snapchat, which Google tells me is a “popular mobile app that allows [me] to send videos and pictures, both of which will self destruct after a few seconds of a person viewing them.” Because I had to ask Google what Snapchat is, you can probably surmise that it is an app with which my age demographic is not very familiar.

Turns out this ghost-y guy is Snapchat's logo

Turns out this ghost-y guy is Snapchat's logo

According to Hootsuite, 60% of Snapchat users are under 25 and almost 23% of those users are still in high school. Do you remember watching movies like The Silence of the Lambs, Terminator 2, Point Break, and Thelma & Louise? Those movies are all the same age as the oldest age group making up the majority of Snapchat users. The largest Snapchat demographic is 18- to 24-year-olds, who comprise about 37% of users. Twenty-six percent of Snapchat users are 25- to 34-year-olds. Those of us in the 35- to 54-year-old category make up only 12% of Snapchat users. The fact that those age ranges are divided up into 6 years, 9 years, and 19 years, respectively, shows how small the percentage is of Snapchat users over the age of 34. To further illustrate how young the Snapchat audience is, you can say that Snapchat users who are between the ages of 25 and 54 (a 29 year difference) comprise roughly 38% of total Snapchat users, which makes that user age group roughly equal to the 18- to 24-year-old user age group.

Have I sufficiently shown you how young the Snapchat market is?

While more and more users over the age of 35 are joining Snapchat each day, it is still an app for young people, which is what makes alcohol brands flocking to Snapchat a little creepy and predatory. In news that will probably surprise no one, Anheuser-Busch InBev was the first alcohol company to advertise on Snapchat in May 2015. Since then, other alcohol brands have also started advertising on the app.

So what’s the problem? The alcohol industry has regulations that require it to only advertise in media wherein at least 71.6% of the audience is above legal drinking age. Alcohol companies who have started advertising on Snapchat say they are careful to only advertise to users who state they are 21 or older, as self-disclosed when they enter their birthdates upon registering as a user. Because we all know that kids never lie about their ages, especially online and especially on social media where all they have to do to gain access to adult content is enter a qualifying year of birth, this is a completely safe forum in which alcohol brands may advertise. Right? Suuuuurrrree.

I don’t mean to imply that alcohol brands that choose to advertise on Snapchat are doing anything illegal, because they are not. They are technically complying with their regulations. However, it seems like they are complying with them the same way a 60-year-old is technically complying with age of consent laws by pursuing 18-year-olds. It’s plausible deniability: should anyone question their motives, all they have to do is spread their hands, shrug their shoulders, and say, “What? We’re not doing anything illegal. How would we know that an underage person would see our content?”

There are plenty of alcohol brands that have made the conscious decision not to advertise on Snapchat for the time being, such as Heineken and Jim Beam, due to the age of the majority of the Snapchat users. The median age of Snapchat users is rising as more and more “older” people are joining each day, so advertising on Snapchat will definitely be a viable option for alcohol brands, most likely faster than we think. Holding off on Snapchat advertising for alcohol brands seems to be the most responsible and less creepy, grooming-type Wooderson behavior approach for now.

For anyone interested, I recently got a Snapchat account, so you can follow me on there at UnderJenfluence. A word of warning: I have NO IDEA how to use Snapchat and close it almost as soon as I open it for fear that I am going to accidentally Snapchat one of those awful, looking-down-at-your-device, double-chinned, old-person squinting pictures of myself. Again, I had to Google what Snapchat was. I tried (ashamedly) typing “How to use Snapchat” into Google and got results that either told me how to spy on my (nonexistent) children on Snapchat or were written by people younger than I am who referred to themselves as “olds” about how they don’t understand Snapchat either. Apparently everyone over the age of 35 lives in unending fear of accidentally sending perplexed-looking pictures of themselves to millions of people.

One last word of warning: don’t be offended if you try to interact with me on Snapchat and I seem unresponsive. I don’t know what I’m doing. In fact, I’ve had a notification on Snapchat since I signed up and it’s driving me crazy that I can’t figure out how to make it go away. I’m assuming it’s a notification similar to when you joined MySpace and Tom was automatically your friend. That’s how old I am in this society now: I made a MySpace reference.