The subject of advertising and children continues to excite widespread debate. The advertising industry is well aware of the need for particular care when advertising is likely to reach children and this is expressed via specific rules in advertising codes.
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Consolidated Code of Advertising and Marketing Communication Practice (2006) contains rules regarding advertising to children. The majority of European SROs have incorporated these rules into their national codes, and some have introduced additional rules of their own regarding advertising to children.
The ICC Code rules provide that: “Special care should be taken in marketing communication directed to or featuring children or young people. Such communications should not undermine positive social behaviours, lifestyles and attitudes. Products unsuitable for children or young people should not be advertised in media targeted to them, and advertisements directed to children or young people should not be inserted in media where the editorial matter is unsuitable for them. Material unsuitable for children should be clearly identified as such."
The guidelines fall under three main headings: Inexperience and credulity, Avoidance of harm and Social Values. As children are often very adept at adopting new technologies, media and devices, EASA has been developing a communication on digital marketing communications taking into account these concerns.
Levels of complaints
Statistics compiled by EASA show the number of complaints relating to advertising and children to be higher than in previous years. After increasing from 1.44% in 2006 to 2.83% in 2007, the percentage of total complaints received began to drop again in 2008 to 2.54%. Despite the low levels of complaints the issue of children continues to feature high on some local and European political agendas.
Television broadcasting and advertising to children is regulated by the Audiovisual Media Services (AMS) Directive formerly known as the Television Without Frontiers Directive, while harmful internet content accessible by children is regulated by the Recommendation on the Protection of Minors and Human Dignity and the Right of Reply. The new Audiovisual Media Services Directive includes rules for the protection of minors for internet-based audiovisual services, programmes and advertisements.
Member States’ initiatives include, for example, Greek legislation prohibiting advertising for toys on television between 07:00 and 22:00 and, in Sweden, a prohibition on television advertising addressed to children under the age of 12. In the UK in 2007, the statutory television regulator Ofcom introduced rules prohibiting the advertising during children’s programming of products high in fat, salt or sugar.