How advertising towards ADHD went viral

Posted 4 weeks ago by David McManus
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Have you noticed a growing number of companies marketing towards people with ADHD? [Source: Shutterstock]
Have you noticed a growing number of companies marketing towards people with ADHD? [Source: Shutterstock]

The algorithm is serving people with ADHD advertisements to improve their lives, but some have questioned the ethics of disability marketing.

Key points:

  • Approximately one in every 20 Australians has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and while it is believed to be more common in males — it’s thought to be under-diagnosed in girls and adults
  • The number of Australians being prescribed medication for ADHD has more than doubled in five years
  • Researchers have suggested that the rise of telehealth throughout the pandemic may have contributed to the number of people receiving advertisements about ADHD

 

Many people have reported seeing several advertisements across social media platforms that are targeted at or claim to benefit people living with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Accounts from those online who live with ADHD stated that advertisements appear to be targeted at them and are marketed with unsubstantiated claims about how their lives would improve as a result of their product or service.

A growing number of people have been diagnosed with ADHD in Australia and studies have contended that this could be due to increased awareness of the disability or as a result of online virality and parasocial adoption.

Although not directly listed on the Guide to the List of Recognised Disabilities, based on determinations approved in 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011 and 2014 by the Secretary of the Australian Government Department of Social Services, ADHD is classified as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act.

ADHD is not covered as a primary disability under the National Disability Insurance Scheme, however, people may receive support through the NDIS if a participant has ADHD in addition to a primary disability that is deemed eligible.

People with ADHD may be more vulnerable to marketing through social media, as many with the condition often struggle to limit their time on social media and overall screen time.

Research on social media use, content viewed and its portrayal of ADHD symptoms found that approximately half of the TikTok videos about ADHD, watched by researchers, were misleading.

For people diagnosed with the condition, both short-term and long-term memory troubles are a significant concern and a key diagnostic criterion for an ADHD diagnosis is an inability to pay attention.

For online advertisements that offer a subscription service or attempt to win people over with a free trial, before a monthly or yearly fee is incurred, this can serve as a concern to many with the condition.

According to a report from Deloitte Access Economics, the total social and economic costs of ADHD in 2019 were estimated to be $20.42 billion. Per person with ADHD, the cost was $25,071.

Meta and TikTok pulled advertisements from a major mental healthcare start-up in 2023, following media enquiries from NBC News and Forbes, specifically regarding its depiction of ADHD and celebrity endorsement.

In 2023, NDIS Minister Bill Shorten faced backlash for his perspective on people with a sole or primary disability being ineligible to receive support from the Scheme.

 

Have you come across targeted ads that seem to know about your disability? Let the team at Talking Disability know and subscribe to the newsletter for more information, news and industry updates!

 

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