The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the sister organisation of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), has introduced new rules following consultations last year which reflecting on current rules already in place.
Adverts for food and drinks high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) shown on non-broadcast media, including social media, print, posters and cinema, will be banned if targeted towards children.
The rules apply for all media where children make up over 25% of the audience and will restrict advertisers using popular characters or celebrities if the content is marketed at children under the age of 12 years old.
Instead, CAP says advertisers should use these techniques to promote healthier options.
Obesity on the rise
Childhood obesity is on the rise, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with one in three children obese in Europe.
Health campaigners and researchers have pointed the finger at advertisements for unhealthy foods as the main threat.
One campaigner, Chris Macey from The Irish Heart Foundation, told FoodNavigator “it’s almost like your child has their own individual marketer following them around”.
Companies, including Coca Cola, have been criticised for their use of advertising targeted towards children for HFSS products.
However, parental factors, socio-economic position and sedentary lifestyles are all factors in childhood obesity.
CAP has implemented stricter rules for advertising to children on all non-broadcast media following consultations last year and numerous complaints.
The rules will be implemented for all TV-like online content as well, including video-sharing platforms, aimed at children.
It is estimated that young people, between the ages of 5 and 15 years, spend 15 hours a week online. This is more than time spent watching TV.
CAP says the new rules have been implemented due to the effect advertising has had on childhood obesity.
The new rules state: ads that directly or indirectly promote an HFSS product cannot appear in children’s media; Ads for HFSS products cannot appear in other media where children make up over 25% of the audience; If the content targets under-12s, ads for HFSS products will not be allowed to use promotions, licensed character and celebrities popular with children – advertisers may now use those techniques to better promote healthier options; and The Department of Health nutrient profiling model will be used to classify which products are HFSS.
“The tougher new advertising food rules are a significant and positive change designed to help protect the health and wellbeing of children. These measures demonstrate the advertising industry’s continuing commitment to putting the protection of children at the heart of its work. The new rules will alter the nature and balance of food advertisings seen by children and play a meaningful part in helping change their relationship with less healthy foods,” said chairman of CAP, James Best.