Both the advertising and food and drink industries have rallied behind new rules banning the advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) food or drink products in children’s media.
The rules will apply across all non-broadcast media targeted at under-16s from July next year, including print, cinema, online and on social media. The rules will also mean ads for HFSS products will no longer be allowed to appear around TV-like content online such as on video-sharing platforms or advergames if they are directed at or likely to appeal to children.
The rules include:
- 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; advertisers may now use those techniques to better promote healthier options.
- The Department of Health nutrient profiling model will be used to classify which products are HFSS.
Bringing the non-broadcast advertising rules in line with TV will lead to a “major” reduction in the number of ads for HFSS food and drinks seen by children. The Committee of Advertising Practice hopes this will protect their health and wellbeing.
CAP’s review and the new rules are in response to wider societal concerns about childhood obesity. The new rules also respond to shifting media habits among young people, with research from Ofcom showing young people aged five to 15 are spending around 15 hours each week online – overtaking time spent watching a TV set for the first time.
Our tough new rules are a clear demonstration that the ad industry is ready to act on its responsibilities and put children’s protection at the heart of its work.
James Best, CAP
While CAP admits the effect of advertising on children’s food preferences is “relatively small” compared to other factors like parental influences, it believes these new ad restrictions could still play a “meaningful” role in reducing potential harms to children.
“Childhood obesity is a serious and complex issue and one that we’re determined to play our part in tackling. Our tough new rules are a clear demonstration that the ad industry is willing and ready to act on its responsibilities and puts the protection of children at the heart of its work,” says CAP chairman James Best.
Still more to be done
The initial response to the new rules has been predominantly positive. The Food and Drink Federation says it fully supports this “landmark” move in UK advertising as it believes non-broadcasting advertising rules should be in line with the rules already in place for TV.
“UK food and drink companies have a high compliance rate with advertising rules. FDF’s job now is to work with the ASA, AA and other partners to make sure advertisers understand how to meet these new requirements which represent a major shift in the UK advertising regime,” Ian Wright, director general at the FDF, says.
The Advertising Association’s chief executive Stephen Woodford believes the new rules reflect changing media habits but says there is still more to be done.
“Regulation is important but we also know the effects of advertising are relatively small, so whether it’s supporting parents with healthier choices, improving education or getting more people, more active, let’s now grab the opportunity to put our collective energy into tackling the big drivers of obesity,” he says.
Not everyone is happy, however. While Action on Sugar welcomes the new rules, it believes they don’t not go far enough.
“We need to see bans on advertising go further, as they currently do not manage exposure to these adverts during popular family programmes such as the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. Levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes are worryingly high and everyone has a role to play,” concludes Jenny Rosborough, campaign manager at Action on Sugar.