Advertising Standards Authority publishes report revealing exposure of children to age-restricted TV ads is falling

The ASA report shows that, in recent years, children’s exposure to TV ads for alcohol, gambling and food and soft drink products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS products) is declining. HFSS ads include products such as confectionary items and soft drinks that may be popular with children, but also products such as olive oil, butter and cheese, which may have minimal appeal.

Data from 2017, the latest year covered by the report, shows that children on average see 161.2 TV ads per week, of which:

  • one is for an alcohol product;
  • 8 are for gambling products; and
  • 6 are for HFSS products.

As an average, it is acknowledged that some children see more ads per week, and some see fewer.

Children’s exposure to all TV ads peaked in 2013 (229.3 ads per week) and declined, year-on-year, to 161.2 ads per week in 2017; a reduction of 29.7%. Over the same period, children’s exposure to:

  • TV ads for alcohol decreased by 62.5%;
  • TV ads for gambling decreased by 37.3%; and
  • TV ads for food and soft drink decreased by 45.5%.

For reasons set out in the report, data on HFSS product ads was limited to 2016 and 2017 only. Between these years, children’s exposure to all TV ads reduced by 15.6%, whereas children’s exposure to TV ads for HFSS products reduced by 22.9%.

As the TV scheduling rules have not changed over the years covered by the report, other factors (e.g. changes in marketing spend and behaviour) are likely to account for the decline in children’s exposure to these ads. The rules continue to help limit children’s exposure, however, to the extent that they ban these ads in significant parts of the broadcast schedule, e.g. in or adjacent to programmes of particular appeal to children.

By setting out the actual level of children’s exposure to TV ads for alcohol, gambling and HFSS products, the ASA seeks to better inform the debate about the effectiveness and the proportionality of the rules that currently restrict their scheduling and content. To access the report, click here.