Helen Hart, Regulatory Affairs Manager, IPM
The ASA has
recently ruled on a series of HFSS advertisements in different media, as well
as gambling advertisements. The common
theme of those adjudications was that the ads concerned had not been targeted
correctly. CAP also wrote to the
gambling industry in October 2017 to ask it to amend or take down “freely
accessible” advertisements that were of particular appeal to children.
CAP has issued guidance this week on protecting vulnerable people in
advertising. The CAP and BCAP codes include rules focused on content designed
to minimise the potential for ads to cause harm, as well as scheduling and
targeting rules which make sure vulnerable people do not make up a
disproportionately large part of an ad’s audience. Examples of the types of
protections CAP and BCAP have put in place include restrictions on advertising
for products like alcohol and gambling, but also extend to particular
audiences, including children or those sharing protected characteristics.
So how does an
advertiser ensure that its advertisements are targeted correctly, ensuring that
material for age-restricted products does not fall in the hands of
children? Moreover, how can advertisers
guarantee advertising material which is unsuitable for children is not seen by
them? Crucially, this is the marketer’s responsibility. It is not an acceptable
defence to argue that intermediaries or affiliates (eg. media and digital
agencies) have failed to target or direct marketing appropriately.
In most cases,
television advertising is dealt with by the watershed rule (although it may
still be seen on recorded television “out of hours”), which prevents
advertising that may be inappropriate from being scheduled around children’s or
family viewing programmes or programmes. However, at the IPM we are concerned
with non-broadcast advertising, advertising online which presents a number of
So what can
mentioned the letter to the gambling industry which detailed the concept of
“freely accessible.” What does this mean exactly? There is no definition in the
advertising codes, but it has been suggested that for age-restricted items you
need age verification – eg provision of credit card details to enter the site to
prove you are over 18. Social media
advertising is considered to be “freely accessible,” and so is advertising on
websites. Age gating is therefore
important, although not always practicable.
Where it is not practicable, such as, if you are advertising on-pack or
in a public place, make sure that the advertising cannot be argued to be of “particular
appeal” to children – so avoid cartoons, licenced characters,
celebrities popular with children and fairy tales.
can be done to target advertisements correctly?
The growing diversity
of activity online has presented new challenges for marketers seeking to comply
with targeting requirements.
marketers relied solely on demographic data when placing advertising
appropriately, identifying consumers’ age with the use of resources from
digital media companies. However, the ASA has now recognised that certain age
related data may be inaccurate – younger users may misreporting their
age or different people may use the same device. Marketers are now encouraged to use interest-based/behavioural
data in conjunction with simple demographic data, to avoid falling foul of the
rules on targeting. Therefore, advertising alcohol to those that have been
looking at the Cbeebies website is probably not
a great idea…