HomeInsightsCommittee of Advertising Practice’s new rules prohibiting sexualisation of under-18s in advertising in force

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On 2 January 2018, Code rules 4.8 and 4.13 were added to the CAP and BCAP Codes respectively. These rules state that ads should not portray or represent anyone who is, or seems to be, under 18 years old in a sexual way. This does not apply to ads whose principal function is to promote the welfare of, or to prevent harm to, under 18s, provided any sexual portrayal or representation is not excessive.

Rulings published before 2 January may refer to the age of a child being under 16, however the new rules strengthen the existing position and ensure protection for those under 18, rather than those under 16. Advertisers should be aware that, when looking at these rulings, the ASA will now consider whether models look, or are under 18.

When assessing ads, the ASA will consider whether models seem to be younger than 18, as well as their real age. It is not acceptable to present models in a sexual way if they could appear to be under 18, even if they are over 18..

If a model could appear to be under 18, marketers should consider the way the model is presented to ensure that they are not done so in a sexual way. The clothing, make up, pose and gaze of models may be taken into consideration, alongside any text.

Symbols of youth, such as school uniforms, will be unacceptable if used in a sexual context. In 2008 an airline ad, featuring a young woman standing in a class room and wearing a cropped school uniform, was considered unacceptable because it was offensive and socially irresponsible to link schoolgirls with sexually provocative dress and behaviour (Ryanair Ltd, 30 January 2008).

Marketers should be mindful of targeting, and ensure that, as well as ensuring that ads do not sexualise people who are, or seem to be under 18 year olds, the placement of ads which include any sexual content is targeted appropriately.  To read CAP’s advice note in full, click here.