High compliance with new UK ad rules, says ASA

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Advertising

The UK's Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has reported a
compliance level of 99.2 per cent with the new content rules on
advertising food and drinks products aimed at children.

Content rules on advertising food and drink products to children came into effect in July 2007 and their aims include ensuring that adverts do not condone poor nutritional habits or unhealthy lifestyle in children, and do not encourage excessive consumption. In addition, adverts should not encourage purchase of food or soft drinks by use of licensed characters, celebrities, or by promotional offers. Nor should they promote consumption of foods purely for the sake of a promotional offer. Fresh fruit and vegetables are exempt from the restrictions. The ASA survey, published this week, looked at a total of 759 different food or soft drink advertisements that appeared in July 2007, of which 292 were television, 377 were press ads, 33 were posters, 27 were circulars, 20 were online ads, seven were direct mailings and three were cinema ads. Of all of these, just six were seen to have "obvious or indisputable problems​" and were therefore recorded as breaches of the codes (two television, four non-broadcast). This gave a compliance rate of 99.2 per cent. The ASA called the findings "encouraging",​ and said they "showed that the food and soft drink advertising industry had successfully understood and acted upon the new rules."​ The findings were also welcomes by the Advertising Association. Chief executive Baroness Buscombe said "The findings… clearly demonstrate how positively the industry has responded to the new rules introduced in 2007 and how firmly they are acting within both the spirit and the letter of the code."​ Another, similar survey is planned by the ASA in 2008. In addition to assessing compliance rates, the survey's objectives included identification and resolution of potential problems, either by food category or code rule. It also aimed to act as a deterrent to bad practice and encourage good practice. Indeed, the ASA did launch investigations of two of the non-compliant ads. For television advertising, the content rules are included in the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice Television Code, and includes foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS); as judged by the Food Standards Agency's nutrient profiling model. The rules for non-broadcast ads are contained in the Committee of Advertising Practice code. The content rules are intended to be complementary to the advertising scheduling rules for HFSS foods around programmes aimed at children, under the jurisdiction of the Office of Communications (Ofcom). The first stage of the new scheduling rules came into effect in April 2007, preventing the advertising of HFSS foods around programming aimed at children under then age of ten. The second stage, relating to programming aimed at children under 16, came into force at the beginning of this month.

Related topics: Policy

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