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5 Minute GAP - Andrew and Ollie talk about the harms of online advertising to kids


Interim CEO Andrew Pendleton and Policy & Campaigns Lead Ollie Hayes get together to talk about the omnipresence and impact of targeted advertising, and the detrimental impacts it can have on us and on our planet. 



"We Share Freely". The change we want to see in the world is bigger than we are. So, we're sharing our knowledge, resources and ideas to help more people and organisations take steps forward towards our vision of a green and thriving planet, where everyone can enjoy happy and healthy lives within the Earth's limits.


As part of this, we're launching our new "5 Minute GAP" series, a collection of five minute conversations that will share how we work and what we're working on. We'll talk about what we're trying to achieve and why, how we function as an organisation, and the thinking behind our plans and strategy.


We'll be regularly sharing these conversations, which will feature different members of our team and trustee board, as well as external experts.


We hope you enjoy listening in to our chats, getting to know our team and finding out what makes us who we are. 



Audio only version:


If you prefer to read rather than watch, the transcription is here: 


Andrew: I suppose that, you know, most of us spend more time than we should on social media platforms, and I'm and yet at the same time, most of us have probably become aware, you know, particularly since the since the European referendum in the UK and the, you know, the rise to power of of Donald Trump in the US, of the divisive power of the platforms.

And it's easy to think that some kind of, you know, conspiratorial big reveal somewhere there. And the fact that actually it's raw commercialism, isn't it? It's more money.

Ollie: Absolutely. Yeah. It it's not in the interests of these platforms to give you a sort of relatively bland take it or leave that experience online. Because you, you know, you're a human being and you after a while you think I'm going to go and do something more interesting. Maybe I'll look outside and spend some time with my family or read a book or something But if you are constantly served up more of the stuff that you've been that you've demonstrated you like, and that might be nice stuff, you know, it might be interesting documentaries or funny cat videos.

But it might also be increasingly extreme stuff or violent stuff or illegal stuff. And it is in the interests of these platforms that the recommender algorithms show you more of that and usually kind of more extreme versions of whatever it is you like because you come back for more. And it is an incredibly abusive and exploitative relationship. And what is very frustrating is that still the discussion, you know, if you listen to a radio phone in or something, the discussion will be about personal responsibility.

And with regards to kids, it will be about parental responsibility. And there's lots of kind of back in my day, you know, parents were able to control their kids did and that's it's just bad parenting. Well, it's not because it's a completely unfair fight. You've got, on the one hand, the biggest companies in the world with the most resources that any company ever has ever had, coupled with unbelievable supercomputing power, coupled with the best behavioral science and insights into how a human brain works, or pointed at one human brain with all of its vulnerabilities and complexities and weaknesses and is not a fair fight.

So I think it's really important that we get away from that idea of like, we need to do things better, we need to love us more, we need to try and get our kids to use the Internet. That's not that's not the question. The question is how do we design these things? How do we regulate these platforms such that they are working in our best interests, not that they are exploiting our human vulnerabilities?

Andrew: Yeah. I mean, as a as a parent, that resonates with me so much because in a daily battle with a 13 year old to to get them off screens basically, which is I guess what a lot of parents how a lot of parents experience this but that's connected to a massive system which you know and a global action plan.

We we we're obviously really interested in how individual households and people experience things because that's a really important potential driver of change. But we're also wanting to make those links into the wider systems, which is why the campaign to end surveillance advertising I think is so important because it's about finding a way into that bigger system, which is actually a system of driving consumption and consumerism, which is some you know, we all need to consume some things to live and have a comfortable and happy life and look after our wellbeing.

But the platforms are now turbocharging consumption to the extent that well, as we know the impact I think that's having in terms of, you know, the use of materials and the impact on the waste materials and impact on the planet. But also on our wellbeing. I mean, you know, to be marketed that in this way all the time is not it's not good for us.

Ollie: It's not and it's not a new problem in the sense that, you know, marketing to kids, whether it's explicitly for kids or not, but marketing to kids has been around forever. Advertisers have been well aware that, you know, using kind of cartoonish characters associated with big brands will appeal to kids and certain colour schemes, all the rest of it.

There's lots of techniques because marketers have always realized that this is that a future kind of set of loyal customers and you can get them young, you know, that's that's very good for them commercially. But what's different is that it can now be harnessed to your own or with computing power and with data, it can be focus on your own very particular interests and needs and vulnerabilities, and also that there's no limit on it.