- The UK's Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) has passed new rules to ban advertising processed foods high in sugar, fat or salt to children directly or in situations where consumers under 18 years of age comprise more than 25% of the target audience, FoodBev Media reported.
- The broad ban includes regulations for all non-broadcast media, including print, film, online and social media, and prevents brands from using promotions, licensed characters and celebrities who are popular among children to advertise these products.
- The Department of Health has instituted a profiling model to determine eligible products, and the Advertising Standards Authority will enforce the new regulations, which are set to take effect in July 2017.
These rules build upon those already in place for TV media and reflect the changing nature of how children today commonly experience food and beverage advertisements. CAP cited research that shows the number of hours children ages 5 to 15 spend consuming content online has for the first time surpassed the time they spend watching TV.
This shift in content and advertising consumption pushed legislators to determine new ways to better target advertising for these types of products. Regulating TV commercials continues to be important. But without a strategy to combat child-centric advertising appearing in online advergames, apps and video-sharing platforms, TV-based regulations may continue to have less of an impact on kids' food and beverage consumption choices.
The U.S. faces similar exponential growth in children's consumption of content and advertising through online sources and could draw from the UK's strategies for its own industry regulations. The World Health Organization released a report in November that urged European governments to crack down on social media junk food marketing directed at children, and the U.S. could receive its own WHO warning in the near future.
Manufacturers have recognized their sway over children's perceptions of foods and beverages and, by extension, children's influence over parents' purchasing decisions. The industry has already undertaken various self-regulating initiatives to limit advertising targeting children without government intervention, such as the Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative and the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative.
Self-regulation could inspire less of a hands-on approach from state and federal legislators. That can benefit manufacturers that may feel overburdened by restrictions on advertising that may be even stricter than those the industry has self-imposed.