Document Type



Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Business and Management.

Publication Details

European Journal of Marketing Vol. 50 Iss 11 pp. 2018 -2040, 2016.


Purpose - Whilst substantial scholarly attention has been given to children’s understanding of advertising in the context of traditional advertising channels, there is a gap in the literature with regard to children’s commercial awareness in the context of online social networking sites (SNS). This paper seeks to explore the nature and extent of advertising literacy amongst young consumers in the context of their use of SNS, namely Facebook and Bebo.

Design/methodology/approach - A three-stage study was conducted with 12-14 year old girls, using focus group discussions, participant observation and in-depth interviews.

Findings - The study illustrates that the increasingly blurred line between online advertising and other forms of online brand-related content is militating against the development of advertising and marketing literacy in young consumers. A key issue which is discussed is the extent to which the traditional conceptualisation of advertising literacy is ‘fit for purpose’ in an online context.

Originality/value –The authors propose an alternative to the advertising literacy concept, namely the Online Brand Communications (OBC) literacy framework. This framework recognises the convergence of traditional online advertising and other forms of online brand content, and also acknowledges that the messaging around a brand may originate from the brand owner in a variety of overt and covert forms. Equally, online consumers may also act as brand promoters when they engage in brand-related word-of-mouth.


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