Children's Food Campaign welcomes the start of new rules restricting junk food marketing to children
Saturday 1 July marks the date when the new Committee of Advertising Practice rules come in. These rules ban the advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) food or drink products in traditional and online children’s media and other sites where children make up over 25% of the audience. It also marks the launch of our Operation Eagle Eye to make sure that companies keep to these new standards.
Commenting ahead of the introduction of the new rules,Malcolm Clark, co-ordinator, Children’s Food Campaign, said: “After years of our campaigning on this issue we welcome these new rules, which should hopefully stop some of the more blatant forms of advertising junk food directly to children. But we have concerns about exactly how the rules will work in practice, especially online. We are also disappointed that some criteria may still mean children remain exposed to a significant level of junk food marketing on websites and social media. In addition, packaging, in-store promotion and sponsorship deals remain outside of the rules.”
“Past experience suggests that we will have a busy time ahead keeping a close eye on advertisers; submitting complaints; and challenging the Advertising Standards Authority to clarify the grey areas and close down the loopholes. We know sweet and confectionery brands are among those most needing to step up."
To coincide with the introduction of the new rules on 1 July, Children’s Food Campaign is:
1) Launching ‘Operation Eagle Eye’
- encouraging people to help us keep a close eye on how food and soft drink companies are advertising their products; and submitting complaints to the ASA about specific ads where appropriate.
2) Issuing a 10 point checklist
to advertisers to encourage best practice and help them meet the spirit and not just the letter of the new rules.
3) Asking the Advertising Standards Authority to conduct transparent monitoring and evaluation of the impact of the new rules, and fully publish those findings in a timely manner; so that the rules can be properly assessed and politicians and the public can decide whether further interventions are necessary. This did not happen satisfactorily with the ASA’s first review of its online remit in 2013.
4) Continuing to campaign to see those marketing techniques not currently covered by the new rules – including packaging, in-store promotion, sponsorship, and in-school marketing – all brought under the same system.
5) Ensuring that – via initiatives such as our new Parents’ Jury
– children’s and parents’ voices continue to be heard in the policy debate.
For interviews, and for further information, please contact Malcolm Clark, co-ordination, Children’s Food Campaign, on 07733322148 or 0203 5596 777, firstname.lastname@example.org
or via twitter @childrensfood
Children’s Food Campaign has produced a briefing document about the new rules, alongside a list of examples of the types of adverts and techniques which were allowed before but may not be from 1 July. Please email email@example.com to request a copy.
1) Children’s Food Campaign
The Campaign aims to improve children and young people's health by campaigning for policy changes in our schools, in our communities and throughout our society that would promote healthy and sustainable food environments. The Children's Food Campaign is supported by over 100 UK-wide and national organisations, including public health professional bodies, trade unions, school food experts, children’s charities and environmental groups. We are a campaign of the charity Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming. www.childrensfood.org.uk
2) Summary of the rules:
• The new rules ban the advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) food or drink products in traditional and online children’s media, from magazines and cinema, to billboards near schools, to social media and advergames.
• The rules apply to media targeted at under-16s.
• The rules come into effect on 1 July 2017.
• The rules do not include TV – that is governed by a separate Code.
The new rules mean that:
• 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.
• Ads for HFSS products will not be allowed to use promotions, licensed characters and celebrities popular with children; though advertisers may now use those techniques to better promote healthier options.
• Ads which use branding heavily associated with HFSS products may not be allowed even if they don’t show the actual HFSS product(s).
The ASA will expect advertisers to make a case that they’ve targeted their ad responsibly and stuck to the rules. If an advertiser can’t be certain about the audience of a particular platform or media, the ASA advises them to take a cautionary approach.
However, Children’s Food campaign’s concerns include:
I. The ASA does not produce a list (even a basic one as guidance only) of magazines, websites etc which it considers to be “children’s media” and thus where HFSS ads would not be able to be displayed.
II. It all depends on the evidence advertisers would present about the audience share (whether that was over 25% children or not), targeting criteria and ad content. Getting hold of data (especially re audience share) is difficult and there is a lack of industry-wide recognised standards / neutral sources
III. Ultimately, only submitting a complaint about an ad and the subsequent ASA investigation and ruling provide a definitive answer on whether something is permissible or not.
In addition, the rules do not apply to packaging, in-store promotion, sports sponsorship, or industry-produced food education materials in schools.
3) 10-point check list for advertisers
Based on the text of past rulings by the Advertising Standards Authority, Children’s Food Campaign has drawn up a stronger and more transparent definition of what constitutes advertising which has ‘particular appeal’ to children. We submitted this as an appendix to our consultation response to the Committee of Advertising Practice in July 2016 (available on request). Now we are taking the top 10 points and reproducing them as a checklist for advertisers who want to adhere to better practice and meet the spirit and not just the letter of the new rules.
We encourage advertisers promoting HFSS products or brands associated with HFSS products to avoid using any of these techniques:
1) Tie-ins with films and TV programmes popular with children
2) Cartoons and cartoon-like imagery that appeals to children
3) Child-friendly characters
4) Colourful and exaggerated style that appeals to children
5) Images of children
6) Characters which children aspire to be
7) Music / artists popular with children
8) Simple game play, or games with names appealing to children
9) Downloadable games / ringtones / screensavers
10) ‘Childlike’ or child-appealing ad wording
4) Obesity Health Alliance
The Children's Food Campaign is also a member of the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) - a coalition of over 40 organisations committed to share expertise and support Government to tackle the issue of overweight and obesity in the UK. http://obesityhealthalliance.org.uk
The Obesity Health Alliance has issued the following statement:
“The new rules acknowledge it is wrong to advertising junk food to children, but only take a small step in the right direction. For too long children have been relentlessly bombarded with junk food adverts online, on billboards outside schools and at the cinema. But just like the problems with current TV rules, we are concerned they don’t go far enough and loopholes mean they only apply when over 25% of the audience is children. This will be impossible to monitor and mean millions of children still be exposed to adverts which we know leads them too unhealthy food choices. Now we need rules that are fit for purpose, that reflect the way our children watch and engage with media online and on TV.”
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Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.