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  • Legal Briefing18th October 2018IPM Members only. Sign up for...
    Thursday 18 October 2018

Appropriate targeting of marketing communications

Friday October 5, 2018 at 8:56am

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.

Separately, 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 challenges.

So what can you do?

Above, I 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.‚Äč

What else 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.

Traditionally, 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…

» Categories: Legal, CAP