Bailey ‘disturbed’ by low awareness of complaints portal

The author of the Government-backed report on the commercialisation of childhood has called on media and advertising regulators to step up efforts to promote their one-stop complaints portal for parents after a report found that the vast majority were unaware it existed.

American Apparel ad banned
The ASA is getting tougher over sexualised imagery in ads

Research by the Chartered Institute of Marketing to mark the first anniversary of the publication of the Bailey report found 85% of parents were unaware of Parent Port – the site setup in response to Bailey – where parents can post complaints about inappropriate programmes, ads, products and services.

Creation of the site, which was aimed at simplifying the complaints process for parents, was one of the main recommendations contained in the report by Reg Bailey, chief executive of the Mother’s Union, and one which was personally backed Prime Minister David Cameron.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Bailey, says it is “disturbing” that so few parents have heard of the portal. “We would definitely like to see a wider promotion of the site,” he adds.

Complaints and comments left on the site – a joint initiative by regulators including the Advertising Standards Authority, Ofcom, the BBC Trust and the Press Complaints Commission – spiked in the weeks after the site launched in October last year but soon fell away.

The regulators partnered with Mumsnet and Netmums in January to launch several marketing initiatives to raise awareness of the site.

A spokesman for the ASA insists that ParentPort is a “valued resource amongst parents”. He adds: “Raising awareness is an ongoing process; we’d be delighted if CIM and its members would like to support ParentPort with their expertise and resources.”

Elsewhere, CIM’s survey, which was carried out by CensusWest and based upon a survey of 1,000 parents, found that 90% think that companies are still not marketing products and services to children responsibly despite concerns expressed by Cameron and deputy Nick Clegg.

The advertising industry, led by the Advertising Association, setup a panel of experts led by former COI chief Mark Lund, has introduced several measures in response to Bailey including a pledge signed by Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Nintendo not to use peer to peer marketing or child brand ambassadors in their campaigns following concern from Bailey.

For its part, the ASA has vowed to crackdown on overtly sexual imagery in ads, another Bailey recommendation. It will visit schools later this year to raise awareness of complaint procedures and gather opinions on what kids want to see reflected in ad codes.

Bailey adds he is “really pleased” with the reaction of the industry and the ASA in these areas.

A spokesman for the Department for Education says enough is being done in response to Bailey: “Reg Bailey’s recommendations have already prompted swift action from industry and regulators. Setting up the Parent Port website is just one of the steps they have taken. We want parents to use the website to give feedback, make complaints and learn more about media regulation, online safety and other aspects of the commercial world, like retailing, that have an impact on children.

“We look forward to working with the Chartered Institute of Marketing in exploring what more can be done to tackle the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood

David Thorp, director of research at CIM, says: “It’s clear that parents still have very real concerns about the way some companies try to sell to children. The marketing profession needs to address these concerns, but we also want a dialogue between parents, the Government and industry bodies to ensure that our solutions are lasting and effective.”

The research has angered some in the advertising industry, which have accused CIM of taking an active role in its response to Bailey. ISBA’s director of public affairs, Ian Twinn, adds that CIM have “remained aloof from the collective efforts of the wider industry”.

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