Instigator / Pro

Energy Drink Industries Should Stop Targeting Children in Social Media Ads


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Energy Drink: any of various types of beverage that are considered a source of energy, especially a soft drink containing a high percentage of sugar and/or caffeine or other stimulant.

Children accounts for those under 18 years old.

Social Media includes Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Pro argues that children should not be mixed into Energy Drink Industry's target audience. Con argues otherwise.

Burden of proof is shared.

Round 1
My case is that Bang Energy, the most influential energy drink company in social media, should stop targeting children in their online ads, and thus, other smaller companies should follow suit. I like to be more specific with research, and using the leaders as an example should set the framework unless Con shows that Bang Energy is a severe outlier, or that it does not showcase energy drink companies' situations well.


One recent and popular form of marketing is influencer marketing. Bang Energy has had success in applying this method of social media influencer marketing to build its brand. However, social media influencer marketing of energy drinks may involuntary have on teens. Because of the association between energy drinks and increased risky behavior amongst teens, Bang Energy should change its marketing strategy to only target young adults to reduce the number of teens exposed to energy drinks by influencers on social media.

I. The use of social media and connection to teens

Michael Haenlein et al. (2020) state that 2/3 of companies plan to allocate more money to influencer marketing and 80% plan on allocating 10% of their marketing budget to it within the next year [5]. This is because influencers are great at creating social media content that garners a lot of consumer interaction, which helps it spread to more audiences [2]. Additionally, COVID-19 has encouraged consumers to spend more time on social media. As a result, the increase in online engagement and shopping may push more companies to invest in online marketing [5]. In terms of the effectiveness of social media influencer marketing vs other forms of marketing, Kelsey Foremost (2019), Director of Content Strategy at Tagger Media, notes that influencer marketing results in a higher return on investment and more analytical measurements of key performance indicators. So, it makes sense that Bang Energy invests the most money on sponsored YouTube videos within the food and drink industry [10].

However, an issue arises when you consider that teens are avid users of social media platforms, like YouTube, where influencer ads are run. Researchers Monica Anderson (2018) found that “45% of teens say that they are online ‘almost constantly’” with 32% of them saying they use YouTube most often [1]. Anderson and Jiang credit their online usage to the fact that 95% of teens reported having access to a smartphone.

LeeAnn Tan et al. (2018) agree that many children are especially attracted to YouTube because of its visual and easy-to-browse content [8]. Therefore, they may be more likely to see energy drink marketing on social media, Additionally, COVID-19 has affected the number of time teens spend on social media. Recently, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago surveyed 2,000 current and recent parents of teenagers. 63% of parents said that their teens were using social media more during quarantine [6]. Because teens spend a lot of time on social media, they are more likely to see influencer marketing.

II. Relation to informed consent and risky behavior

Children and adolescents should not be mixed into Bang Energy’s target audience because of the correlation between children's’ consumption of energy drinks and an increase in their risky behavior. Visram et al. (2016) found that the consumption of energy drinks strongly correlated with drinking alcohol, smoking, substance abuse, as well as being associated eating junk food or fast food [9]. Already, children between the ages of 10-18 drink more energy drinks than those older than 18 [9].

Part of the reason for this is the way energy drinks are marketed. The same expert suggests that children are attracted to energy drinks because of the perceived benefits they provide. This includes the promise of higher energy along with a good tasting drink. Children were also found to be less aware of the adverse effects and risks of energy drinks than adults [9]. These concerns show that there is a need to reduce children's’ consumption of energy drinks. The way the ads are portrayed need reformation as soon as possible.

Additionally, children are more susceptible to persuasive marketing tactics than adults. According to Frans Folkvord, and Manouk de Bruijne (2020), social media influencers and children have a growing “parasocial” relationship between them on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram [4]. They explain that this relationship reduces children’s awareness when they are being marketing to because they see influencers as credible peers. Crystal R. Smit et al. (2020) also concur that children are more likely to be persuaded by integrated food marketing in vlogs because they are less likely to have the cognitive ability to identify it as marketing [7]. Being that many children and adolescents are on social media and are more susceptible to marketing tactics, they are more likely to consume energy drinks marketed by Bang Energy.

Informed consent is key to helping customers and the basis of service. Without this such informed consent, we encourage misleading advertisements spreading false information, and hiding dangerous details. This could lead down to a slippery slope where all companies begin preying on children and encouraging them to buy dangerous products without being fully informed. Those under 18 are still developing their brains and thought processes, which leads to a more dangerous lack of knowledge and difficulty of judgment.

III. Counter-plan: Targeting adults, and boosting public image

While it is beneficial for Bang Energy to sell many energy drinks to increase profits, sales should come from older customers, like young adults. This target audience is more appropriate because they are viewed as more responsible and less vulnerable. Unlike children, they are more aware of marketing tactics, so their consent is more transparent. Additionally, focusing on targeting older customers would open Bang Energy to new potential target audiences who have not been exposed to its products. It would open a new marketing opportunity to attract new customers.

Bang Energy (and other energy drink companies) would also gain favorable corporate social responsibility in the public's eyes by shifting its marketing strategy. Having a good public image is important for companies. because in recent times other companies have received repercussions for advertising harmful products to children. For example, JUUL, a company that sells e-cigarettes, received a letter from the Center for Tobacco Products of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [11]. The letter addressed the agency’s concerns over JUUL marketing to students. Additionally, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued JUUL for “creating a youth vaping epidemic by intentionally marketing and selling its e-cigarettes to young people” on February 12, 2020 [3]. My suggestion to strictly market to young adults would position Bang Energy towards being more socially responsible. This public image would protect Bang Energy in the future against the potential backlash.

Bang Energy can credit its initial success to this innovative social media influencer marketing strategy. While this strategy was beneficial in regards to brand awareness, it leaves teens vulnerable to its persuasiveness. This is worrisome because of the correlation between children's’ energy drink consumption and increased risky behavior, such as substance abuse. Making changes to avoid targeting teens would provide Bang Energy with security against legal action, which would negatively affect the company’s finances and reputation.

It is evident that Energy drinks' social media ads and teens' viewership are intricately related. Due to misleading ads and teens' difficulty to make decisions properly, even if Bang Energy was cherry-picked, all my arguments apply to energy drink companies in general. We should stop targeting children in energy drink ads. 

And one more thing. Voters should note that the vast majority of my sources are from experts. I expect no less from my opponent. Voters ought to dismiss all newspaper sources from Con unless they are backed by hefty research, as a mere editor does not have to go through such rigorous review process. 


Introduction to Con-  The pro has structured their argument as follows:
-Bang uses influencer marketing on social media to advertise their brand.
-teens use social media.
-Energy drinks are "bad" for teens because they are associated with "risky behavior."
-Teens are more at risk for falling for marketing tactics than adults.
-There is not informed consent in the advertising, and this is the key to "helping customers and the basis of service."
-Counter plan 
(If this is inaccurate in any way, the pro is free to make appropriate corrections in his/her next argument) 

I will be addressing each facet of the argument, breaking it down, and explaining the opposition. 
Facet 1- Bang uses influencer marketing. 
This point is conceded because it is factually correct. Bang has partnered with several influencers to create sponsored video advertising Bang products. 

Facet 2- Teens use social media. 
This point is conceded because it too is factually correct, if not just obvious. To deny and argue against this point would be to deny reality. In other words, arguing against this point is futile and a waste of time. Teens obviously have a huge presence on social media platforms. 

Facet 3- Energy drinks are "bad" for teens because they are associated with "risky behavior."
I find that this an odd argument to run with. Instead of focusing on negative physiological effects of energy drinks, the pro instead uses an article that discusses a study in which teens who regularly consume energy drinks may also be taking other risks, such as abusing drugs or smoking. This, in my eyes, is a ridiculous argument. Energy drinks are obviously unhealthy, and regular consumption of such drinks is in of itself is a risky behavior that teens are partaking of, and to conclude that consumption of these drinks is what could be potentially causing the other risk taking behaviors is rather ridiculous, if not outright unsubstantiated with any definitive evidence. If a teen does not worry about his or her health and chooses to drink unhealthy energy drinks, then it would logically make sense that they would also participate in other risky behaviors, regardless of whether they had just consumed an energy drink. "The finding doesn't mean the drinks cause bad behavior. But the data suggest that regular consumption of energy drinks may be a red flag for parents that their children are more likely to take risks with their health and safety. 'It appears the kids who are heavily into drinking energy drinks are more likely to be the ones who are inclined toward taking risks.'" (Source 1) This would mean it is a characteristic of the teen whether they take such risks or not, and that energy drinks are not a contributing factor of such risky behaviors. 

Facet 4- Teens are more at risk for falling for marketing tactics than adults. 
The evidence provided for this point is an article addressing specifically the use of Influencer marketing with food and the link to childhood obesity. " the food promotion is often highly integrated with the vlog content, rendering it more difficult for children to recognize it as advertising than is the case with more traditional advertising, such as television commercials. With recognition of advertising being a first prerequisite to process advertising critically (Rozendaal et al., 2011), this makes it less likely that children will defend themselves to its persuasive appeals. In such a relatively low elaborate, automatic level of processing, food cues in media messages can lead to consumption behavior via simple and direct cue-reactivity mechanisms." (Source 2/ pros source 7) This means that this point can only be applied to Influencer marketing. Even if the voters and I agreed to this point, it can't be applied to advertising as a whole. Even if Bang or other energy drink companies decided to end the use of influencer marketing, then they could simply shift other methods of advertising to target younger audiences while remaining "ethical." This point is mute, and ending the use of influencer marketing doesn't mean the issue of teens consuming energy drinks will be resolved. If the point isn't to prevent teens from consuming energy drinks, then what is the point of the counter plan or the debate? 

Facet 5- There is not informed consent in the advertising, and this is the key to "helping customers and the basis of service."
This argument should be easy as the pro literally attempts to utilize a Slippery Slope Fallacy.  The pro states in there argument, "This could lead down to a slippery slope where all companies begin preying on children and encouraging them to buy dangerous products without being fully informed. " "In a slippery slope argument, a course of action is rejected because, with little or no evidence, one insists that it will lead to a chain reaction resulting in an undesirable end or ends. The slippery slope involves an acceptance of a succession of events without direct evidence that this course of events will happen." (Source 3) "A slippery slope fallacy occurs when someone makes a claim about a series of events that would lead to one major event, usually a bad event. In this fallacy, a person makes a claim that one event leads to another event and so on until we come to some awful conclusion. Along the way, each step or event in the faulty logic becomes more and more improbable." (Source 4) In other words, this argument in not actually valid, because it can't actually be substantiated with valid evidence. It's literally considered a big "no, no" in a debate. 

Facet 6- Counter plan.
I don't under what plan the pro is trying to "counter;" however, the counter plan assumes that shifting the advertising to target specifically older adults instead of children, because it will help the public image of Bang, and because the "consent" of adults will be more transparent. The issue with this counter plan is that it won't even prevent the consumption of energy drinks by teenagers. It doesn't "solve" the problems presented by the pro. This is obvious because teenagers still tend to drink alcohol even though marketing targets adults, and the law even prohibits underage drinking. has this prevented underage drinking? No! "In 2019, about 24.6 percent of 14- to 15-year-olds reported having at least 1 drink. In 2019, 7.0 million young people ages 12 to 20 reported that they drank alcohol beyond “just a few sips” in the past month. People ages 12 to 20 drink 4.1 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States." (Source 5) It would take more than just shifting the targeted demographic of Bang advertisements. It would take even more than banning the consumption of energy drinks to prevent teenagers from drinking it. 

In conclusion, regardless of ending influencer marketing tactics, the stated "issues" by the pro won't even be solved. While the pro has plenty of supporting evidence, evidence can only go so far in supporting a point if the point itself is flawed. 

Round 2

Risky Behavior
Con claims that "The finding doesn't mean the drinks cause bad behavior. But the data suggest that regular consumption of energy drinks may be a red flag for parents that their children are more likely to take risks with their health and safety. 'It appears the kids who are heavily into drinking energy drinks are more likely to be the ones who are inclined toward taking risks.'"

Firstly, note that Kathleen Miller is merely one expert, while my meta-analysis combines over 400 studies together, and thus is arguably more rigorous. Next, while Miller admits that the drinks may not necessarily cause bad behavior, the meta-analysis goes deeper into why the energy drinking is innately troublesome, rather than merely the risk-taking leading to drinking. "young people who consumed alcohol mixed with energy drinks were more likely to feel and be perceived as more intoxicated, and to have greater odds of driving violations and accidents, after controlling for all other factors.59 ,60 Consumption of energy drinks has been linked to sensation-seeking,29 ,38 ,39 ,53 ,57 self-destructive behaviour,39 problems with behavioural regulation and metacognitive skills,61 and poor lifestyle behaviours,49 including regularly eating junk food or fast food."

In addition to this, there are also solid impacts on the brain which may impact later decisions, further enhancing the ideas of risky behavior. The study further asserts, " Other cross-sectional studies have demonstrated positive correlations between energy drink consumption and sleeping problems,46 ,61 self-reported medical treatment for an injury,57 odds of sustaining a recent or lifetime traumatic brain injury41 and hyperactivity/inattention symptoms.45". With trouble within even sleep and brain, it's difficult to disprove my mountain of arguments. The energy drink may seem to be only one shard in the junk food chain, but if all junk food chains followed suit and prevented the suffering during a time a development, the bigger impact clearly would be to resolve all problems related to reckless indulgence. 

Marketing Tactics
Con realizes that my argument cannot be applied to overall advertising. This is true, and why the premise only regards social media, rather than all advertising, such as TV, newspapers, so on and so forth. I see no significant impact on my argument, which applies to the very specific type of advertising. It is the precise methods of Influencer Market that makes children exceptionally vulnerable, rather than other advertising.

Informed Consent
Con claims that my argument is a slippery slope that will never happen if we allow Bang energy to target any audience they desire, but has no support other than claiming that this is a fallacy. On the surface, it seems absurd that all energy drink companies -- or all companies associated with dangerous products -- would suddenly begin to prey on children, but assumptions lead to actions, and actions lead to results. For example, various energy drink companies followed suit when Monster energy preyed on male insecurities [1]. Even the expert who did the study on this admitted, “There are so many men who still struggle with the belief that they are obligated to perform traditional masculinity or they’re worthless,” Levant said. “That’s the vulnerability that marketers and advertisers tap into.” Similarly, energy drink companies understand that children are exceptionally vulnerable on social media sites. By encouraging advertising children (or ignoring their vulnerable nature), it seems that my slippery slope *will* be realized, as given in real life examples. This is not a fallacy, but a reality that con must accept.

Counter plan
Here con says that the actions taken will be useless, despite of encouragement, there will always be children who take energy drinks -- even if we ban it. Though the problem will never be completely resolved, as long as my plan turns out to be a net benefit with significant impact, then we will succeed. Due to our encouragement of negative effects of alcohol and the ban of it, we have successfully dropped the drinking overall. [2] Indeed, as people around the world are becoming more aware of the problems with alcohol, the "sober movement" has been increasingly successful. There are countless news articles that support this ideal, with one company owner even smartly creating an alcohol-free beer to attract customers [3].

If this wasn't enough, there are studies that the educational intervention is significantly able to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed. Many experts worked together to evaluate 31 different providers, and concluded: "At 12 months, the intervention was significantly associated with an increase in alcohol-related discussions with physicians (23% vs. 13%; p ≤ .01) and reductions in at-risk drinking (56% vs. 67%; p ≤ .01), alcohol consumption (-2.19 drinks per week; p ≤ .01), physician visits (-1.14 visits; p = .03), emergency department visits (16% vs. 25%; p ≤ .01), and nonprofessional caregiving visits (12% vs. 17%; p ≤ .01)." [4Contrary to con's claim, shifting the advertisement focus, adding more information, and getting rid of the risk of informed consent, WILL significantly reduce the amount of people who take energy drinks, based on examples of alcohol. Unless Con is able to refute this, my plan stands strong.

Round 3
Extend all arguments. 

In conclusion, energy drinks cause physical and mental problems which can further the causes for risky behavior. The informed consent is a big problem among children, and encouraging them not to drink it could vastly reduce the amounts, due to understanding the harms (as seen with educating about alcohol). 

Vote for pro.