0108 GMT December 16, 2019
The advert for PopJam, a social media app designed for seven-to-12-year olds, was first aired in July on children’s TV channel CITV, The Independent reported.
However, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched an investigation after parents complained that the advert could be “detrimental” to children’s mental health and affect their self-esteem.
The advert was found to be in breach of rules regarding social responsibility plus harm, and was banned from being shown again.
SuperAwesome Trading, the company that created Popjam, was also warned by the ASA to ensure that it didn't suggest gaining popularity and the acquisition of likes and followers were “desirable” things in their own right in any future adverts.
The advert in question featured an on-screen image of a phone showing an illustrative scroll of a PopJam news feed which displayed various users’ virtual artwork.
Large text on the right of the image stated “LIKES” with a heart emoji and with an increasing figure.
The next clip showed an image of a phone with a different virtual drawing on its screen.
Large text to the left stated “FOLLOWERS” with an image of a number rising quickly from 96 to 10,000 while a female voice-over stated, “Get likes and followers to level up.”
Following the investigation, SuperAwesome Trading stated that PopJam was a “walled garden” social content platform for children and designed to ensure their privacy, safety and well-being.
The company claimed it was different from other social media platforms, where likes and followers signified social status, because the purpose of likes and followers on PopJam was to progress through the levels in the app.
SuperAwesome Trading said that the statement “get likes and followers to level up” was an encouragement of in-app play and was used as a means to unlock benefits and attain game satisfaction.
However, it acknowledged that the statement could be harmful if a child interpreted it to mean that attaining popularity was critical to enjoyment of PopJam.
A spokesperson for the ASA said, “We considered that the suggestion that the acquisition of likes and followers was the only means of progression was likely to give children the impression that popularity on social media was something that should be pursued because it was desirable in its own right.
”We were therefore concerned that the ad’s encouragement to gain likes and followers could cause children to develop an unhealthy perception that popularity on social media was inherently valuable which was likely to be detrimental to their mental health and self-esteem.
“As such, we concluded that the ad was likely to cause harm to those under 18 and was irresponsible. The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.”