Is “YouTube” telling or selling you something? Tobacco content on the YouTube video-sharing website
- The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
- Correspondence to: Ms B Freeman The University of Sydney, Sydney 2006, NSW, Australia;
- Received 3 January 2007
- Accepted 1 March 2007
With advertising bans eroding direct tobacco advertising and promotional opportunities, tobacco companies are embracing more covert means of keeping their products in the minds of current and potential consumers. Compared with the breadth of published research on “above-the-line” tobacco advertising, research examining “below-the-line”1 indirect forms of tobacco promotion is in its infancy. Promotions at dance parties,2 themed nights in hip clubs,3 bars and music festivals,4 and disguising market research as sampling promotions5 are examples of identified strategies. Just as tobacco company marketers have infiltrated youth-friendly venues, it is conceivable that they also have a presence on youth-friendly websites. While the world wide web (WWW) is being used extensively to sell cigarettes,6 its largely unregulated status holds much potential as a vehicle for both promoting smoking and particular brands of tobacco products, and for promoting antismoking discourse.
The WWW is no longer a vehicle to simply retrieve information and purchase goods, it is now a fully interactive and participatory platform.7 Coined in 2004 as Web 2.0, the WWW is increasingly being driven by consumer-generated content.8 It is both timely and critical to examine tobacco marketing in the Web 2.0 era. We are particularly interested in websites that appeal to youth and young adults, the same target population for tobacco companies. Internet use by young people is part of their everyday life; in 2006, more than half of youth and young adult Australians (aged 15–24 years) used the internet on a daily basis.9 The website YouTube (www.youtube.com) is an ideal example of a youth-friendly website that embodies the Web 2.0 principles of participation. It has the potential to be a fruitful place for tobacco marketers to turn their efforts.
What is YouTube?
YouTube was founded in February 2005, as a “consumer media company for people to …