Report raises concerns over the regulation of online ads

The advertising industry has welcomed a Government-commissioned report about the impact of marketing on children, despite the study expressing some concerns over the current effectiveness of online regulation.

The Buckingham Report, which was commissioned by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), reviewed the “impact of the commercial world on children’s wellbeing”.

The report states that children are “exposed to a growing number and range of commercial messages” and acknowledges the “significant concerns” some have about the impact on children.

However, it also states the evidence of risk and harm to children “is rarely conclusive”. It adds that “children are neither the helpless victims” of marketing nor the “savvy consumers” some marketers suggest.

Schools secretary Ed Balls said of the report: “As the impact of the commercial world on children is concerned, the evidence shows a complex picture from which it is not possible to draw simple conclusions about cause or effect.”

The Advertising Association said the report was “measured and thoughtful”. “Advertisers take their responsibilities to children very seriously,” it added.

However, the report did express concerns about the effectiveness of online regulation. Rules need to adapt to the “changing realities of a converged, digital environment, in which marketers increasingly work across multiple platforms”, it said.

Nick Stringer, head of regulation at the IAB, says it “welcomes this important and balanced report”, adding that it acknowledges “the concerns relating to digital marketing to children”.

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