New restrictions on HFSS advertising to children

We have announced a new placement restriction, which will prevent the advertising of food and soft drinks that are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) being targeted through the selection of media at children under 16. We have also amended our existing content rules – these prohibit the use of promotions and licensed characters or celebrities in ads targeted through their content at under-12s – to allow non-HFSS advertising more freedom. The changes bring the CAP Code into line with the rules that have governed TV advertising since 2007.

Why has CAP changed the rules?

The new rules are a significant change. The UK is facing a huge public health crisis due to persistent rates of obesity. Advertising is not a significant contributory factor, but it does influence children's food preferences and behaviour. The new restrictions are intended to contribute to wider efforts to improve children's diet. Even a small impact could result in meaningful mitigation of the sizeable harm to individuals and massive societal and economic costs.

When will this apply?

The ASA will start enforcing the new restrictions on 1 July 2017. There is a narrow additional transitional period for advertisers who can satisfy the ASA that they made a long term commitment to buy media space i.e. that the campaign was booked prior to 8 December.

What media are going to be covered?

The new and amended rules will apply to all non-broadcast advertising media. The placement restriction will prohibit HFSS ads in media obviously directed at children and other media with a more general audience when children make up more than 25% of the audience.

What do I need to do?

If you are an advertiser of HFSS products or a media owner that might carry such advertising, the rules are likely to have an impact on you. Put simply, you need to ensure that your business and marketing processes take account of the need to place HFSS advertising in line with the rules.

Where can I seek advice?

Over the coming months, we will be producing more free advice and training resources to ensure that advertisers are ready for the new rules. Our Copy Advice team is also on hand to offer fast, free and confidential pre-publication advice.

We’ll be publishing more Quick Q&As on HFSS advertising in the next few weeks to give you a summary of the key points and tips on getting ready to stick to the new rules.

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