Media Smart launches resource to help young people manage online ads

Animated film explains what causes inappropriate targeting of ads, and how to use the AdChoices icon.


Media Smart, UK advertising’s non-profit education programme, has partnered with industry coalition the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance to create a resource aimed at helping young people understand the processes behind online advertising, and how they can manage their experience.

The resource includes a three-minute animated film, as well as classroom resources such as games and quizzes. It is designed to prompt discussions around interest-based advertising. It builds on the school PSHE programme of study on how data can be used to influence decisions, including tailored advertising and other forms of personalisation online.

A report last year from the Advertising Association, Arresting the Decline of Public Trust in UK Advertising, found that the issue of bombardment in online ads was one of the major factors driving a long-term decline in trust. Bombardment can include excessive volume, repetition and irrelevance of ads, all of which can be caused by poor targeting – for example, serving someone ads for backpacks after they have also purchased one.

The resource also aims to give young people a broad understanding of the role played by advertising, explaining how it funds most online platforms, and introduces young people to the AdChoices icon, a cross-industry tool that gives internet users more control over which ads they see.

AdChoices was first launched in the US in 2010. A survey in 2018 found that only a third of US adults were aware of the tool – the same number that knew about ad-blocking browser extension Adblock Plus.

Rachel Barber-Mack, director at Media Smart, said the resource was not exclusively intended to be useful for young people. “The animation is a fun and innovative way to teach. I’ve learnt an awful lot about the subject myself in creating these materials and would urge everyone to watch the film regardless of what age they are,” she commented.

Digital channels have accounted for more than half of UK adspend since 2015, and the same milestone was reached worldwide earlier this year, according to Zenith’s Advertising Expenditure Forecasts.

Media Smart's other recent initiatives have included challenging young people to create their own ad campaign based on the the "Eat them to defeat them" campaign, created by Adam & Eve/DDB and backed by broadcasters and supermarkets to encourage kids to eat vegetables.

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