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ASA/CAP - HFSS food and drink: New online ban in children's media

Published on 13 December 2016

In May 2016, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) published a consultation into food and soft drink advertising to children.

The background

On 8 December 2016, CAP announced new rules banning the advertising of high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) food or drink products in children’s media. The rules will apply across all non-broadcast media including print, cinema and online/social media, bringing them in line with the BCAP rules already in place for broadcast advertising. The rules, which will apply in media targeted at under-16s, will come into effect on 1 July 2017.

The new rules
• Ads that directly or indirectly promote an HFSS product cannot appear in children’s media
• Ads for HFSS products cannot appear in other media where children make up over 25% of the audience
• Ads for HFSS products will not be allowed to use promotions, licensed characters and celebrities popular with children; advertisers may use those techniques to better promote healthier options.

The Department of Health's nutrient profiling model will be used to classify which products are HFSS. The new restrictions are aimed to significantly reduce the number of ads for HFSS food and drinks seen by children. They also mean that ads for HFSS products will no longer be allowed to appear around TV-like content online, such as on video-sharing platforms or advergames, if they are directed at or likely to appeal particularly to children.

The new rules respond to shifting media habits amongst young people and evolving advertising techniques which have fundamentally changed children’s relationship with media and advertising. Research from Ofcom shows that young people aged 5-15 are spending around 15 hours each week online – overtaking time spent watching a TV set for the first time.

Why is this important?

The new CAP rules align online and print media with TV which, given young people’s changing viewing habits, is significant. The ban on advertising HFSS products to under-16s demonstrates the regulator’s desire to assist the government in trying to tackle childhood obesity.

Any practical tips?

Think carefully about the use of all media where children make up over 25% of the audience, and what additional safeguards you may now need to put in place. Consider also making express reference to the new rules in your advertising and media-related agency agreements.