For the purposes of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code, a child is someone under 16. Rule 5.4.2 states “Marketing communications addressed to or targeted directly at children must not include a direct exhortation to children to buy an advertised product or persuade their parents or other adults to buy an advertised product for them.” In other words, marketers should not exhort children to buy the advertised product. The Code also prohibits promotions that require a purchase to participate and include a direct exhortation to purchase being addressed to or targeted at children (Rule 5.7).
Marketers should ensure that promotional items are suitable for the audience addressed but marcoms featuring promotions to children have to be handled especially carefully and with a due sense of responsibility;
- Promotions to children should not include alcohol gambling or any other product that is unsuitable for a child or that has an age restriction that excludes children (Rules 8.4, 8.5 and 8.8).
- Promoters should take care not to exploit children’s susceptibility to charitable appeals and should explain the extent to which their participation will help in any charity-linked promotion (Rule 5.3.2).
- HFSS product advertisements that are targeted through their content directly at pre-school or primary school children (under-12s) must not include a promotional offer (Rule 15.14).
Promotions addressed to or targeted directly at children:
- must make clear that adult permission is required if a prize or an incentive might cause conflict
Examples include animals, bicycles, tickets for outings, concerts and holidays. Previously, CAP used to advise that adult permission might be needed if a cost is necessary to enter (for example, premium-rate lines) or if a cost is associated with the prize. However, in light of the CPRs and amendments to the Code, promoters should ensure that they do not to invite children to enter at cost because that could constitute making a direct exhortation to buy something (Rule 5.7);
- must contain a prominent closing date (Unless the promotional pack includes the promotional item or prize and the only limit is the availability of that pack, rule 8.17.4.b)
A website competition encouraging 12 to 18 year olds to enter their band was found to breach the Code because the promoter dithered about the closing date (Bandwagon Digital Ltd, 25 July 2007). The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found the promoter had not dealt fairly and honourably with entrants and had caused unnecessary disappointment. The ASA asked the promoter to take special care when addressing competitions to children;
- must not exaggerate the value of a prize or the chances of winning it
In 2004, the ASA received complaints about a promotion, on the packaging of a magazine for teenage girls, that stated “FREE! DESIGNER BRACELET worth £12.99”. The complainants challenged the claim “designer”, because they believed the brand was not a designer brand. The ASA considered that some readers were likely to infer from the “designer” claim that the bracelet was made by a well-known designer. Because it was not, the ASA concluded that the claim was misleading (Hachette Filipacchi, 13 October 2004).
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s Advice Online entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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We are aware that sometimes whether something is of particular appeal to under-18s can be nuanced – therefore, marketers are welcome to get a view from our Copy Advice team which provides pre-publication advice on advertising at any stage.