Top tips on targeting and placement

Feb 22nd '24

Protecting children and young people is one of the core purposes of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code. Marketers should ensure that group is appropriately protected from marketing that includes sensitive content – for instance, violent, sexual, or frightening imagery – and from being targeted with marketing for unsuitable products. Here are some top tips.


Consider the attitudes of the audience

The way in which marketing communications are targeted can have a significant bearing on their acceptability under the CAP Code. The likelihood of an ad causing offence is inextricably linked to the attitudes of the people who see it. An outdoor poster for GIRLvsCANCER was upheld because the content was likely to cause serious and widespread offence, and was therefore also inappropriate for display in an untargeted medium where it could be seen by children.


Media matters

The same ad can appear in different media and be perceived differently depending on the targeting and placement. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) Ruling on Kentucky Fried Chicken (Great Britain) Ltd t/a KFC, 2023 was upheld for the poster (Ad c) which included references to expletives in media targeted to a general audience which included children, however Ad (a), an email addressed to KFC’s mailing list subscribers was not upheld given the readers were considered to be more likely to be aware of their tagline and were therefore less likely to find the allusion to an expletive offensive.


Think about the potential audience

Marketers should consider the potential audience of their ads, particularly in mediums that have different methods of serving ads or are likely to reach a diverse demographic. Also, some products are inherently more likely to offend than others and hence should be carefully targeted. See The ASA Ruling on Get Hard Ltd, 2022.


Targeting helps, but won’t always save

Marketers should be able to demonstrate they have taken due care in the targeting of ads that might be considered unsuitable for children to avoid breaching the Code. However, the ASA Ruling on Whaleco UK Ltd t/a Temu, 2023 included ads that were deemed unsuitable to be seen by audiences of any age, regardless of whether the advertiser had taken steps to target them towards audiences over 18.


For further advice, see our Advertising Guidance notes on media placement and online targeting, as well as AdviceOnline guidance here and here.


Source: CAP


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