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Changes to the Children’s Advertising Code are here

06 December 2023

#Technology, Media & Telecommunications, #Corporate & Commercial Law

Published by:

Clare Giugni

Changes to the Children’s Advertising Code are here

The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) has replaced the existing Code of Advertising and Marketing Communications to Children (Existing Code) with the new Children’s Advertising Code (New Code) with effect from 1 December 2023.

The New Code has a broader scope than the Existing Code and is also accompanied with more detailed guidance for brands and advertisers regarding the prevailing community standards on health and safety, as well as the use of “kidfluencers”.

Expanded scope of New Code

The Existing Code applies to advertising that is directed primarily to children and is for products or services that are targeted towards and have principal appeal to children.

Under the New Code, a broader range of advertisements will be covered – the Code will apply to any advertising that “targets” children, irrespective of whether the advertised product is a children’s product. For the purposes of the New Code, a child is any person under 15 years of age.

This will mean that advertising content relating to household or other general non-children’s products may be captured by the Code if it is targeted at children.

Whether an advertisement “targets” children will be determined with reference to:

  • whether the nature and intended purpose of the product being promoted principally or significantly appeals to children
  • whether the presentation of the advertisement content (e.g. theme, colours, wording, music and language) is principally appealing to children
  • whether the expected average audience at the time or place the advertisement appears includes a significant proportion of children.

Children may be a “significant proportion” of the expected average audience, where:

  • 25 per cent or more of an advertisement’s predicted audience will be under 15 years of age
  • the advertisement is placed during a program rated C (for children) or P (for pre-schooolers)
  • the advertisement has proximity with programs, artists, playlists, video, movies, magazines or other content with significant appeal to children (including content featuring popular children’s personalities or characters)
  • in relation to outdoor advertising – the advertisement is placed at a location where children regularly and predictably gather.

Community standards on health and safety

As with the Existing Code, the New Code prohibits advertising to children that contravenes prevailing community standards (see section 2.1 of the New Code), or that encourages excessive or irresponsible consumption (see section 2.6 of the New Code).

However, the Practice Note accompanying the New Code provides some further information about those standards, warning advertisers that they must not promote any products or services that are unsuitable or hazardous to children and must not encourage unsafe practices.

This will capture alcohol, vaping and other hazardous products, as well as advertising that encourages bullying or promotes an unhealthy ideal body image.

The Practice Note also completely prohibits advertising of “occasional” food and beverage products to children. “Occasional” food and beverage products are products that do not meet the Food Standards Australia Nutrient Profile Scoring Criterion. This is consistent with the existing AANA Food and Beverages Advertising Code.

Use of “kidfluencers”

Advertising to children which uses popular personalities or celebrities (whether live or animated) must be clearly distinguishable as advertising (see section 2.7 of the New Code).

The Practice Note for the New Code makes it clear that any disclosure that the content is advertising should be:

  • within or directly next to the content
  • of a significant size and colour to stand out
  • readily apparent before (if possible) or immediately at the point of engagement.

Next steps for brands and advertisers

Brands, advertisers and advertising agencies will already be familiar with the rigorous approach taken by the Ad Standards Community Panel towards children’s advertising. It will now be necessary for advertisers to take a more conservative approach to advertising that could be seen to “target” children.

At present, Ad Standards receives far fewer complaints under the Existing Code than other AANA codes, such as the Code of Ethics. In 2022, 0.42 per cent of complaints received were related to issues covered by the Children’s Code.

However, we expect to see an increase in enforcement action under the New Code in the short term, given its expanded scope.

Brands, advertisers and advertising agencies should reassess their advertising strategies to ensure that any ad campaign which may be considered to target children is compliant with the New Code.

If you have any questions about the New Code, please get in touch with our team below.

Disclaimer
The information in this publication is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavour to provide accurate and timely information, we do not guarantee that the information in this article is accurate at the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future.

Published by:

Clare Giugni

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