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Ensure your ads are identifiable as such to children

The IPA supports CAP’s advice to advertisers and agencies, issued today (5 Feb 2015), to review their online marketing to children to check that it’s obviously identifiable as advertising. The advice follows the publication of an independent literature review, commissioned by CAP, to check that the advertising rules designed to protect children in the online world are doing their job.


Richard Lindsay, IPA Director of Legal & Public Affairs said: “We support this pro-active step by CAP and their response to the review. It is good news that, on the findings of the review, CAP believes that the CAP Code rules are fit for purpose and adequately safeguard children with regard to online food advertising.  We acknowledge CAP’s concern though that, in a fast-changing landscape, more can be done to help the industry ensure that commercial messages are clear to consumers, particularly children, and we welcome CAP’s proposed initiatives intended to meet that aim. We have issued reminders in the past to our members about the need to ensure that ads are obviously identifiable as such. Following CAP’s initiatives, we will continue to do so.”

Read the full press release from CAP below:

Advertisers reminded of the need to be clear with kids online 

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is advising advertisers to review their online marketing to children to check that it’s obviously identifiable as advertising. 

The call comes in response to the findings of an independent literature review, published today, which indicates some uncertainty about the extent to which children can identify online marketing, specifically immersive techniques like advergames.  While CAP explores the issue further, it is issuing interim guidance to marketers asking them to review their online marketing, and if in doubt, label it.

In 2014, it commissioned Family Kids & Youth to provide an up-to-date picture of the impact of online advertising of food and soft drink products on children.  CAP has a dual responsibility to make sure children are protected by the Advertising Codes, and to deliver proportionate, evidence-based regulation.  The Review shows that the available evidence on advertising’s impact on children’s dietary choices is limited. 

While it remains open to considering new evidence in this important area, CAP thinks the current evidence does not merit changes to its food and soft drink advertising rules at this time.

However, in light of the findings, CAP will undertake further work in the coming months to gain a better understanding of how immersive online environments affect children’s critical understanding of online marketing.  The UK Advertising Codes are clear that ads must be obviously identifiable.  This applies to all sectors, not only to advertising for food and soft drink products.

CAP is:
• issuing interim guidance to marketers to help them decide when and how to make clear to children that certain types of online content is advertising.
• further exploring how children understand the commercial intent of online ads with a view to publishing new guidance in Autumn 2015.
• committed to supporting any new guidance with industry training.
• conducting a monitoring exercise in 2015 to make sure online food and soft drink marketing to children complies with the strict rules already in place.

Shahriar Coupal, Director of CAP said: “The findings of the Review underline the importance of our balanced approach to setting the rules, particularly in sensitive areas where there are competing arguments.  It’s crucial that we keep an active watch on new developments online to make sure our regulation continues to play an appropriate part in protecting children.” 

Read CAP's response to the literature review in full.

Read Family Kids & Youth Literature Review of Research on Online Food and Beverage Marketing to Children in full.


Last updated 05/02/2015

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