The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code contains the rules regarding advertising targeted at, and featuring, children. Rules state that ads must contain nothing that is likely to result in their physical, mental or moral harm and goes on to make clear of situations (featured below) that must not be featured in advertising. The rules then go on to state that children must not be:
Children must not be encouraged to enter strange places or talk to strangers
Ad rules state that children must not be encouraged to enter strange places or talk to strangers. 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);
Children must not be shown in hazardous situations or behaving dangerously
Unless it is to promote safety, ad rules states that children must not be shown in hazardous situations or behaving dangerously. 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).
Children must not be shown using or close to dangerous substances or equipment without adult supervision
Ad rules says children must not be shown using or close to dangerous substances or equipment without adult supervision. 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).
Children must not be encouraged to copy any practice that might be unsafe for a child
As per Code rule 5.1.4, children must not be encouraged to copy any practice that might be unsafe for a child. 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). The ASA investigated a complaint in 2017 about an ad for fake tattoo and if this was responsibly targeted. The fake tattoo was made to look like a bite mark, on a woman’s chest and was featured in an in-game app. The ASA considered that the game was likely to have strong appeal to children and therefore children were likely to have seen the ad. Therefore the ASA considered the ad had not been targeted responsibly and therefore breached the Code (wish.com, 1 November 2017).
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 AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.
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