HomeInsightsAdvertising Standards Authority and Committees of Advertising Practice says that Government decision to delay until 2024 restrictions on ads for less healthy food and drink does not leave a vacuum of regulation

Article by

The ASA and CAP say that the UK has longstanding, strict rules controlling the media placement of ads for less healthy food and drink, audience targeting and creative content, and the ASA remains strongly committed to proactively enforcing them.

The ASA and CAP note that there are three layers of protection in the rules:

  1. placement: restrictions on where age-restricted ads can appear;
  2. targeting: restrictions on how age-restricted ads are targeted; and
  3. content: restrictions on what age-restricted ads can depict so that the ad does not appeal to children.

The regulators say that they continue to ban less healthy food and soft drink product ads in children’s media and, in fact, only allow them to be shown exclusively or predominantly to adult audiences, i.e. where adults comprise at least three quarters of the audience.

The regulators do this because evidence suggests advertising is one of many factors that affect children’s food preferences, albeit modestly. The advertising rules therefore remain an important part of a wide range of measures that balance public health interventions with personal responsibilities, with the objective of tackling obesity and its multifactorial causes, they say.

The ASA and CAP also continue to use technology to proactively monitor the media landscape for any breaches of the rules, taking compliance action as necessary. The ASA’s CCTV-style Reports and Avatar Reports bring transparency and assign accountability to this area, and their findings have triggered a significant strengthening of the online targeting guidance, which the regulators “will say more about shortly”.

So, whilst the ASA and CAP stand ready to work with the Government to play their part in any updates to the rules on ads for less healthy food and drink advertising in the UK, it would be a mistake, they say, to think that the delay to the Government’s restrictions leaves an absence of regulation. This advertising remains controlled by longstanding, strict rules and ASA enforcement of them continues to evolve and improve to ensure that children’s exposure to it is kept at appropriately low levels. To read the ASA/CAP article in full, click here.