Diaego pulls Snapchat ads after ASA upholds Captain Morgan complaint

Diageo has suspended all advertising on Snapchat after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint against the drinks giant relating to a June 2017 Snapchat Lens campaign that included a cartoon icon of a pirate.

The lens, which made the user’s face look like Captain Morgan, featured two glasses of a mixed alcoholic drink clinking together on screen, a seagull that flew a scroll on to the screen, which said “Live like the Captain”, a voice-over that said “Captain” and the sound of people cheering.

Diageo argued that it ensured that all marketing communications which appeared on social media platforms only appeared on those where a minimum of 75 per cent of the audience were aged 18 years and above, and that demographic data provided to Captain Morgan by Snap showed that in 2016, 77 per cent of UK Snapchat users were registered as aged 18 years or over. In addition, the Captain Morgan lens used age-gated targeting to ensure that the lens was only delivered to users with a registered age of 18 years and over.

In its ruling however, the ASA decreed that the age targeting was irrelevant, saying: “Because the ad was targeted at a defined set of users, we did not consider it relevant that less than 25 per cent of the total platform audience was under 18. We therefore considered whether the ad had been directed at people under 18 through the selection of media (i.e. the Snapchat lens). It also called into question the adequacy of self-reported age as the sole means of targeting alcohol advertising on Snapchat. Since the campaign ran, Snap has introduced more age targeting options. 

The ASA noted that the lens did not use particularly bright colours, but that: “it did age and add a beard to the user’s face which we considered was of comedic effect. Taken together with the lens icon, we considered that the specific interactive and augmented elements of the lens, such as the user’s face being made to look like a buccaneer, the clinking glasses, references to ‘Captain’ and the cheering, were likely to appeal particularly to those under 18.”

Nett result: the ad was found to be in breach of the CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) Code. Captain Morgan was told that the ad must not appear again in its current form, and that it must ensure its ads are appropriately targeted in the future, and that they are not of particular appeal to under 18s.


In response to the ASA ruling, a Diageo Spokesperson commented: “We have a strict marketing code, take our role as a responsible marketer very seriously and acknowledge the ASA’s ruling.

“We took all reasonable steps to ensure the content we put on Snapchat was not directed at under 18s – using the data provided to us by Snapchat and applying an age filter.

“We have now stopped all advertising on Snapchat globally whilst we assess the incremental age verification safeguards that Snapchat are implementing.”