Online ads to kids set to fall under TV rules

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Not for children: a ban on online advertising to children is moving closer
Not for children: a ban on online advertising to children is moving closer

Related tags: Advertising

The advertising of foods high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) to children online has moved a step nearer to falling under the same restrictions as TV advertising after it was revealed that a public consultation was being prepared.

Initiated by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the consultation will look at whether restrictions on the targeting of HFSS food ads at children for TV should be applied to other media.

Guy Parker, chief executive at the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) who broke the news at a Westminster Food & Nutrition seminar in March said he was “particularly pleased”​ about the development.

‘Episode of Peppa Pig ...’

“It's increasingly hard for people like me to defend why our advertising codes ban the targeting of a sugary food ad around, say, an episode of Peppa Pig on linear TV, but don't ban that same ad appearing in and around that same episode shown online.”

Parker said the CAP consultation would also look at the impact on children of immersive advertising content in the form of 'advergames' electronic games that are used to advertise products, brands or organisations. “Do children always understand when they're being sold to? The emerging evidence is they don't,” Parker said.

‘Children's media habits’

“It's vital that we move with the times, making sure we respond to changes driven by changes in technology, and changes in children's media habits. Children are watching much more content online, which doesn't fall under current regulation.”

Regulation around the TV advertising of HFSS foods to children was significantly tightened in 2007, in response to analysis by Ofcom that showed it had a modest direct effect on children's food preferences.

Parker said that the ASA applied the CAP code “without fear or favour”​, and would take action against advertisers that broke the rules. “If anyone doubts that, go to our website. We publish around 600 to 1,000 of formal rulings each year, and companies fight like tigers to avoid having an upheld ruling against them.”

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