Q&A with Mark Lund, chair of the Children’s Panel

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The Children’s Panel was setup to discuss how the advertising industry can implement the recommendations made in the Bailey review about the commercialisation of childhood.

Lund spoke to Marketing Week’s sister title new media age about the issues the panel – which includes representatives from EMI Music, Dubit, The Outdoor Media Centre, Unilever, McDonalds, O2, Microsoft, Facebook and Mumsnet – will focus on and how digital media fits into helping protect children from commercialisation and sexualisation.

What is the role of the Children’s Panel?

The purpose is to answer the specific points Reg Bailey made in his report. There were thirteen overall of which half a dozen affect advertising and communications; some are directed more to the Advertising Standards Authority’s remit and some to us, while there are also one or two that needs to be addressed by both.

Broadly we are aiming to create a climate of opinion in the industry that’s in line with the opinion of regulators and parents, and society at large. With any issue regulation you will normally find one side saying one thing with the other against, but with self regulation there needs to be a broad blessing for the public and the regulators to keep it in line with public opinion.

As a parent of teens myself, I can see how childhood gets commercialised and sexualised – these are real issues.

What part does advertising play and how does the panel address this?

There is no question for me that advertising is playing any villain role here, but it does needs to play a part in sorting it out. It is quite an untraditional panel in the sense that we have sought to have a broader group of representatives from the academic world, and not just other trade bodies. For example, we have Mumsnet which is a business but is also a community organisation.

What issues from the Bailey Report will you focus on?

One issue that is less relevant to online is the use of advertising on the street that has sexualised imagery. It is a targeting issue – finding out what can be done to prevent sexualised images in ads being placed in areas near schools or where lots of kids will hang out.

Another issue, more closely linked to online, is the employment of kids as brand ambassadors and the use of children in peer to peer marketing; we need to figure out exactly what can be done and what the industry’s stance is on it. We have to figure out whether there are some areas when it is permissible. So is it ok if it is for social good, for example?

It is an area where there are really blurred edges. What does it mean to be a Fan or to Like something? Is it different expressing an inferred Like for something as opposed to being asked to do something by a brand? Online this is even more so, the lines between these are even closer than in the traditional offline space.

What is the next step for the panel?

The panel meets at the start of August to discuss the remit and discuss in detail the issues and how we propose to reach a conclusion to them. In September we will have another meeting preparing for the catch up and update meeting on the Bailey Report in October, held by David Cameron at Number 10.

We won’t have sorted anything by then but we are aiming to show that the industry is taking it seriously and we have a solution mapped out.

Is there an education job to be done in explaining to parents how they can flag ads they deem inappropriate to the ASA?

This is the last main area we will be focusing on, alongside the ASA. We have found that if parents are clear about what they can do then they are satisfied at the self regulation by the industry. We want to try and create a high level of awareness and education in parents, and that is why having parents organisation involved on the panel will be helpful.

You can’t force education on anyone but you can make it easily accessible and engaging in the way you disseminate the information – which is what we do as an industry, so we should be able to do that part well.

This story first appeared on New Media Age. For more digital stories and analysis from NMA click here now

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Tom Fishburne is founder of Marketoon Studios. Follow his work at marketoonist.com or on Twitter @tomfishburne See more of the Marketoonist here

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