Thinus Ferreira

MTV shows hard liquor ads to its young audience

2013-01-31 10:15
It's not that Nickelodeon can't show condom ads, or that Style can't have commercials for beard trimmers. It's just that the hard liquor ads on MTV feel so inappropriate, especially given that the cool, clear vodka can't legally be sold to anyone under 18.

MTV is running hard liquor TV commercials on MultiChoice's DStv platform. The TV ads on the youth channel clearly state that it is not for sale to persons under the age of 18.

Now the funny thing is that MTV positions itself, its brand and its channel proposition as a youth brand and courting an audience of viewers younger than 18. So why agree to advertising on your TV channel that you know is not meant for a large part of your audience?

Broadcasting to the mass African youth with MTV and MTV Base, it's highly conceivable that a large chunk – if not possibly the largest chunk – of the viewers of the channel are actually under the age of 18.

So why accept and run an ad that's not geared towards and not aimed at people younger than 18 – and which is inappropriate for a large part of your supposed TV audience?

What next?

What will viewers get to see next on the TV channel run by Viacom International Media Networks Africa (VIMN Africa)? Ads for retirement homes? (Young ain't old but you need to start thinking about that when you're 15.)

Ads for adult diapers? (When you're 16 you're not in them anymore but like Larry King the time might come in a few decades where you need 'em again.)

Ads for overseas trips? (Hey, you might still be living with your parents and have no money but let's throw caution to the wind and go on a yacht vacation around the world.)

MTV, like any TV channel, mirrors its audience and shows them versions of themselves. The channel is known for shows such as My Super Sweet 16, 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom - even the upcoming The Inbetweeners is about awkward teenagers in high school.

A lot of teenagers who watch MTV are not 18. Yet a product is advertised and marketed to them on the channel – for instance Skyy Vodka – which these viewers, younger than 18, can't legally buy.

It could be that the TV channel and the advertiser are actually thinking that they're reaching not necessarily the younger-than-18 crowd, but the older-than-18 crowd. Or that there are actually more viewers older than 18 than younger than 18, which makes it an attractive TV spot to buy.

Is MTV therefore actually skewing more towards an older audience when it comes to viewers, although it's trying hard to air programmes geared towards a younger audience? It doesn't make sense.

Of course MTV has a lot of viewers older than 18 making the commercial legitimate, but it's interesting and notable that MTV would run something like a vodka TV ad and selling such a product to its African audience on its advertising space when it's maybe not so appropriate for the entire target market.

It's not illegal, of course. It just seems inappropriate.

What do you think about MTV airing liquor adverts? E-mail and you could be published.

Thinus Ferreira is an independent TV journalist and critic. Read his blog here.

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