Tobacco Brands Found to Indirectly Advertise on YouTube

By August 26, 2010

A New Zealand study published yesterday shows a significant presence by tobacco brands on YouTube as pro-tobacco videos proliferate as indirect marketing. Contributors collected and analyzed global data by searching the video site

"using five leading non-Chinese cigarette brands worldwide." Themes and content were scrutinized to assess the resulting list of videos that contained tobacco brand images or words.

Since there is no global governing party that controls content on the Internet, the study found that it an ideal place for tobacco marketing, though the tobacco companies denied advertising on the Internet. But the majority of tobacco-themed brand-related videos contained pro-tobacco content - 95 percent of content was pro-tobacco versus under four percent anti-tobacco.

Further analysis of the pro-content brand-related videos found that most contained "tobacco brand content (70.6%), the brand name in the title (71.2%) or smoking imagery content (50.9%)." A pro-smoking music video had over 2 million views. The four most popular themes of these videos were celebrity/movies, sports, music and "archive." The first three themes are very youth-oriented, while the fourth refers to material aired when TV ads were legal.

While this material is not covered by the legislation that originally took tobacco ads off of television so many years ago, a means of retaliation is built into YouTube itself. As the study suggests, content can be removed from YouTube if it is found to contain copyrighted or offensive material. By flagging the videos mentioned in the study, public and health organizations can request the removal of such content. The authors suggest extending the tobacco advertising control legislation requirements to the Internet to prevent further abuse.

As ReadWriteWeb reports, tobacco ads were banned from TV and radio over forty years ago, and this summer tobacco companies were prohibited from sponsoring events.

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