Stop targeting us!: Influencer marketing and unhealthy commodities advertising aimed at children and youth in digital spaces

The marketing of unhealthy commodities aimed at children and young people is recognized as an effective strategy to induce greater consumption of many products. These strategies have become more diversified and sophisticated in recent years to reach their target audiences through digital spaces such as the use of apps, smartphones, tablets and social  media – all allow different industries to reach younger audiences more easily. Through her year 2 Young Leaders Program project, Ana Larrañaga started this project to gather more evidence to demand better regulations around the advertisement of unhealthy products to young people in the digital space.

Project goals

The project aims to describe the digital behaviours of various categories of unhealthy commodities, including ultra-processed  foods, sugary drinks, tobacco products, alcohol and energy drinks, aimed at children and young people in two counties: Mexico and the United Kingdom. The team’s ultimate project goals are to:

  • Develop a report with the key results of the research carried out in digital spaces in Mexico and the UK to support the generation of evidence on advertising in digital spaces and the need to regulate to protect the health of  children and youth  
  • Produce a policy brief and provide this information in a clear and  simple way to decision makers  

Gathering evidence and dissemination

To achieve the project goals, Ana assembled a team of young researchers to help conduct a literature reviewing, which included reviewing relevant scientific literature on the impact of marketing on children and young people, and developing a narrative analysis of the explicit and implicit messages in different types of advertising directed at children and young people by observing digital spaces in Mexico and UK, covering a range so social networks.

In partnership with Youth Alliance for Wellness and Development, the youth advocacy wing of the Healthy America Coalition (CLAS), the team developed a final report entitled “Stop Targeting Us!” and an accompanying policy brief – both currently available in Spanish (and will also be available in English) – that contributes to the generation of evidence to demand better health protection regulations in digital spaces. It also aims to highlight new advertising trends such as “influencer marketing”, through which advertising is no longer focused on producers’ official accounts or sites, but on the social networks of content creators with large takeaway audiences and unhealthy promotions.

Launch of the report

On June 12, 2023, the team held a virtual launch event to share the new report and policy and engage in discussions about marketing to children and young people in the digital space.

Speakers included Agustina Luque and Beatriz Champagne from CLAS, Julissa Chavira, Youth Alliance Coordinator, and co-authors of the report Doré Castillo, Karla Jiménez and Ana.

Read the report (Spanish)

Read the policy brief (Spanish)

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