Advertisers have great power to influence people. While it’s easy to justify running any ads as long as they increase your AdSense revenue, that simply isn’t a responsible use of the power advertisers have. Every person or company that displays advertising to others should employ the best responsible advertising practices. For example, it’s not OK to sell cigarettes to kids anymore, no matter how clever the advertisement is. Ever notice that you need to verify your age before you go to a cigarette or alcohol website? Same concept.
Know your audience, and advertise to them responsibly. Otherwise, you’re opening yourself up to AdSense policy violations and unhappy site visitors.
Twitter’s Age Verification
Twitter just introduced a new feature in this vein: Age Verification. Now, if you try to follow Bud Light, Bacardi, Knob Creek, or other alcohol companies on Twitter, you’ll be met with a prompt to verify your age. As Tarun Jain said in a blog post, “Our hope is that this approach to age-screening will enable alcohol brands to responsibly and safely connect with the right audience on Twitter.”
While it may seem counterintuitive for Twitter to limit the followers of alcohol-related brands on its service to people older than 21, it makes perfect sense for two main reasons.
- Advertisers need to trust Twitter. Advertisers need to understand that Twitter is not going to allow them to peddle their wares to just anyone. For legal reasons, alcohol companies aren’t allowed to directly advertise to people younger than 21 — that’s why you see the age verification popups when you go to breweries’ websites. While it is unclear whether or not Twitter accounts are under the same regulations, alcohol companies have been worried enough about this that they have been verifying peoples’ Twitter accounts preemptively. These companies sent Direct Messages to new followers’ accounts upon a follow in order to verify their ages anyway. This is just off
- It helps Twitter look good. Twitter doesn’t want to be known as the social network that makes it easy to sell booze or cigarettes to kids. As nice as it would be for them to allow users unfettered access to certain Twitter accounts, it’s just untenable to do so. Twitter is a publicly-traded company now, and upholding its public image is at least as important as driving followers to certain accounts. A single public relations scandal could absolutely destroy Twitter’s stock price, and they can’t afford to do so right now, being such a young company.
Be a Responsible Publisher
What does this mean for you, the publishers?
You don’t get off easy, either. It’s absolutely critical that you be a responsible publisher. Take after Twitter: verify that if there are any adult-themed advertisements showing on your site, that they are only being displayed to users who are old enough (legally) to see them. It’s the responsible thing to do, and it will make you look good — besides avoiding big public relations scandals later on.