New ASA Code for Advertising to Children

Curated by Will Douglas, Client Services Director

Bulletin #3


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The continued topicality of childhood obesity in NZ saw a 2016 review of the two codes regarding advertising to children: Code for Advertising to Children and the Children’s Code for Advertising Food. Last week an independent panel, chaired by former Court of Appeal judge Hon. Sir Bruce Robertson, released its recommendations following the review. It suggests significant changes to the existing codes regarding not only the placement and targeting of advertisements, but also, and unusually, the creative delivery of the message.

The key panel recommendations:

  • Combining the two existing codes into a single code
  • Clearer definition on what constitutes ‘advertising’, acknowledging a digital world where the lines of paid advertising can blur
  • Stating 25% as the children audience share when the code should apply: “Occasional food and beverage advertisements must not be screened, broadcast, published or displayed in any media or setting where more than 25% of the expected audience are children”.
  • Introducing a new age bracket to consider with additional rules: ‘Young People’ 14 to 18 years. The current codes applies to children under 14 years only
  • Clarity regarding targeting on digital devices. Targeting decisions should be about content the advertising appears within, not the device owner
  • Confirmation that sponsorships do sit within the code
Read the code here. The ASA has accepted the recommendations and code, and this will come into effect on 3rd July 2017 for new advertisements and 2nd October 2017 for current advertising.

Ikon Point of View, from Will Douglas, Client Services Director.

We can all appreciate that there needs to be rules set regarding what is appropriate advertising to children.

The recommendations (which have now been set as the new code) are clearly upping the ante in regards to occasional food advertisers. The new code goes further than many other OECD countries, and the addition of the Young People category is an interesting development and one that means that advertisers need to tread very carefully to avoid falling foul of it.

As a parent of a preschooler, I support restrictions. Anyone with children knows too well that their children do ask (or shout) for the things they see on TV or YouTube (and the new code rules that advertisers can no longer urge children or young people to ask their parents).

What I do question is why much of this code only applies to food and beverage advertisements; should it not apply to all advertising? The recent Hatchimal craze has been driven by advertising to young children. We all want our children to be less entitled and less influenced by consumerism; toy advertising often drives desires for bright, plastic, non-sustainable things.

Going back to food, as a marketer, the Kinder Surprise unwrapping YouTube videos are one part genius, one part evil. Children will watch these for hours! It’s noteworthy that the code is attempting to influence these ‘non-advertising’ moments; though how this could be enforced is unclear. As the world becomes more digital, and kids become more digitally-native, I believe this is the issue the industry needs to be debating.

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