Section 5 of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code contains the rules regarding advertising targeted at, and featuring, children. Rule 5.1 states that ads must contain nothing that is likely to result in their physical, mental or moral harm and makes clear that children must:
not be encouraged to enter strange places or talk to strangers (Rule 5.1.1). An ad for a dating website on social media featured a young girl dressed in school uniform with her shirt unbuttoned and the claim “Older men wanted”. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) considered the image was irresponsible because it alluded to, and seemed to encourage, grooming of young children (Mate1.com Inc, 17 April 2013);
not be shown in hazardous situations or behaving dangerously except to promote safety (Rule 5.1.2). An ad in Tatler magazine featured a young woman lying on railway tracks. The ASA noted that there was no train in sight and that she was able to move freely. However, they understood the model was 14 years of age and shown in a potentially unsafe location and concluded the ad breached the Code (Prada Retail UK Ltd, 23 November 2011);
not be shown using or close to dangerous substances or equipment without adult supervision (Rule 5.1.3). A catalogue featuring an ad for a children’s play tent showed two children playing with a Fire Station tent. The picture included a real fire that one child was pretending to extinguish. The ASA considered that emulation of the scene depicted was likely to result in harm and concluded the ad breached the Code (The Win Green Trading Company Ltd, 20 July 2011); and
not be encouraged to copy any practice that might be unsafe for a child (Rule 5.1.4). In 2010 the ASA investigated complaints about a children’s clothing catalogue using the theme ‘waste’. The children were shown wearing clothes made out of recycled materials, including coloured plastic bags, and some appeared to be held in close proximity to their faces. The ASA considered that children viewing the catalogue might replicate the images and considered the ad breached the Code (no added sugar Ltd, 24 February 2010).
Distance selling marketers must take care when using youth media not to promote products that are unsuitable for children (Rule 5.1.4).
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.
How can we help!
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.