Insights Committees of Advertising Practice launch consultation on introducing new rules on advertising to children of food and soft drink products in non-broadcast media, including online.

CAP says that its action comes in response to wider societal concerns around childhood obesity, as well as the need to ensure that the advertising rules reflect changing media habits amongst young people.

CAP’s main proposals are to:

  • introduce a new rule to the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Direct and Promotional Marketing (the CAP Code) to limit where advertising for food and soft drink products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS products) can be placed in all non-broadcast media, including traditional and online media;
  • explore through consultation whether the new rule should prohibit HFSS product advertising in media targeted at or of particular appeal to children under 12 or under 16; and
  • apply the existing rules prohibiting the use of promotions and licensed characters and celebrities popular with children to HFSS product advertising only, allowing more creative ways for healthier foods to be advertised to children.

CAP says that available evidence shows that advertising has a modest effect on children’s food preferences, but other factors, such as parental influence, opportunities for physical exercise, education etc, play greater roles in the causes of and solutions to childhood obesity.  However, CAP says that it believes even a relatively small positive impact from new advertising restrictions could “make a meaningful contribution to tackling this important health issue”.

The proposals are informed, CAP says, by an understanding of the costs that would emerge from a failure to address the obesity crisis affecting the UK.  A third of children are overweight or obese, which in turn adds to the wider adult obesity problem; overweight and obese children are more likely to become obese adults and have a higher risk of morbidity, disability and premature mortality in adulthood.  The consultation explores what role advertising regulation can reasonably play, alongside a co-ordinated approach involving parents, schools and a wide range of public health professionals and regulatory bodies, in helping tackle this deep-seated public health challenge.

The focus on the non-broadcast rules is also informed by CAP’s understanding of changing media consumption habits, the regulator says.  The growth in popularity of the internet has changed the way children interact with the commercial world.  Research from Ofcom, showed that in 2015, 96% of 12 to 15 year-olds spent more time online than watching TV.

CAP invites responses from individuals and organisations with an interest or expertise in the policy issues involved.  The consultation closes at 5pm on 22 July 2016.  To access the consultation documentation, click here.