“I’ve seen them so much they are just there”: Exploring young people’s perceptions of gambling in advertising

Abstract

This study contributes to the emerging literature on commercial advertising and youth gambling by exploring adolescent's exposure to and perceptions of gambling advertisements. We analyzed a sample of 50 youth in six focus groups between the ages of 13 and 18 to examine the process by which youth perceived, received or rejected the form and content of advertising and to determine what these ads meant to their social identities. We found that youth had considerable exposure to commercial gambling advertising, decoded for the most part, the gambling messages offered by advertisers and identified themselves with the gambling experiences as they aged and well before they reached the age of majority. We also found that about one-third of gambling advertisements were not received by youth as intended and were ignored, not understood or rejected. The youngest age cohort (13-14) were the most likely to evince a social distance from the tone, style or look that many older youth found attractive in the ads and the least likely to identify themselves with the cultural capital of gambling such as social friendship, economic gain and fun and entertainment. We concluded that socially responsible advertising for youth protection should be heterogeneous and not assume that all youth are alike or will be influenced by single messages.

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