Facebook Is Using Minors To Advertise Alcohol

Social marketing holds lots of potential but also many perils, especially when it involves minors.

This is especially true for alcohol advertising. It is both illegal and improper for a 13 year old to promote Coors Light or a vodka brand in a television commercial or print ad.

But it appears that Facebook is clearly violating state and federal law – and its own policies – by using its rich social graph to promote alcohol advertising, on the Facebook pages of minors.

The fact that this is happening shouldn’t be a surprise to Facebook. They not only have known about it since 2007 when they launched ads – this is exactly what social graph based advertising was supposed to do. Here’s what Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said in 2007 when Facebook launched Ads

Facebook Ads represent a completely new way of advertising online. For the last hundred years media has been pushed out to people, but now marketers are going to be a part of the conversation. And they’re going to do this by using the social graph in the same way our users do … Social actions are powerful because they act as trusted referrals and reinforce the fact that people influence people. It’s no longer just about messages that are broadcasted out by companies, but increasingly about information that is shared between friends. So we set out to use these social actions to build a new kind of ad system.

Want proof? Here’s the ad I saw yesterday on my daughter’s Facebook page. My daughter is 13.


  • Merkin

    Were you logged in as your daughter here or just looking at her profile?

  • Merkin

    Actually you can see that this is you looking at her profile or the “message” icon wouldn’t be there.

    FB ads are targeted at YOU based on likes interests and demographics and follow YOU around Facebook, regardless of the page you are looking at. 

    FB aren’t using 13yr old to promote booze – you just didn’t understand how ads work on FB.

    • Merkin – thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. As I wrote in the post, I saw the ad on my daughter’s page – and you’re absolutely right that I saw it when visiting from my account. That was the point of my post – Facebook is using the social graph to have a 13 year old “market” alcohol to others. A 13 year old’s page should not have ANY advertising content that a 13 year old could not market.

      Put another way – how would you feel if a 13 year old was in a commercial promoting beer or vodka? The commercial is marketing to people of drinking age, but a 13 year old is being used to promote the message. I wouldn’t condone that – and see Facebook’s ads in much the same way. Do you disagree?

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