New research shows a high level of daily social media usage with people aged 18-29 the highest daily users of both social media and the internet.

The report from Australia’s independent advertising complaints adjudicator, Ad Standards, shows that on average people spend 3.2 hours daily online, with 1.8 hours of that on social media.

Facebook is the most popular social media for people over 50 (95%), while those aged 18-29 are more likely to be on Instagram (80%) and Snapchat (67%).

Conducted by Colmar Brunton, the research specifically examined the level of community concern about ‘clearly distinguishable advertising’ and what makes social media and online content ‘clearly distinguishable as advertising’ to online and social media audiences.

Ad Standards CEO Fiona Jolly said the findings addresssed trends in digital marketing.

“While complaints about online advertising represent less than 6% of complaints received in 2018, the issue of distinguishable advertising is increasingly being raised in the media and wider community.

There was strong agreement from participants that it was important that online advertising is clearly distinguishable as such.

However, there was also a low level of concern about whether advertising is clearly distinguishable or not.

“The research shows that the community is alert but not alarmed by the changes in the online advertising space,” she said.

The research also looked at five advertisements previously considered by the Ad Standards Community Panel (the Community Panel) under section 2.7 of the AANA Code of Ethics introduced in March 2017. Three of these advertisements were social media ‘influencer’ posts on Instagram, plus an online and a television advertisement.

Overall the research showed that the Community Panel’s determinations about whether an advertising or marketing communication was distinguishable as such to the relevant audience were generally in line with community perceptions.

“This research is an important part of the work we do to ensure that decisions made by the Community Panel are in line with current community values in relation to advertising,” Jolly said.

Information gathered from the participants has been used to create a guidance list of the different methods used in identifying clearly distinguishable advertising to assist in future Community Panel decisions.

Ad Standards has commissioned regular research to assess community perceptions since 2006. Previous research has looked at other specific areas such as advertising directed primarily at children, exploitative and degrading advertising, sex, sexuality and nudity, violence and discrimination in advertising.

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