Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 29 November 2022
Law stated as at: 13 January 2023
The ASA published its 100 Children Report in November 2022. The focus of this report is to understand what adverts children in the UK are exposed to when they use a mobile phone, tablet, social media platforms or website.
There were 97 children, aged 11-17, who participated in the survey by the ASA. The ASA monitored the mobile devices that the participants used for one week to identify what adverts the children were exposed to. The ASA also conducted surveys of larger groups as part of the report.
Exposure to age-restricted adverts online
During the week, there were 11,424 instances when an online advert was received by the mobile devices belonging to one of the 97 children. Of these, 435 (3.8%) of the adverts should be age-restricted to over 18 year olds; for example, advertising for alcohol and gambling. Based on the ASA’s research, it was evident that children exposed to most of the age-restricted ads were registering as 18 or above, under false dates of birth. The study found that around 93% of all children aged 11-17 in the UK have a personal account with one or more social media platform and the average is three accounts. The ASA found that at least 11% of these accounts where registered by children who claimed to be 18 or older.
It is particularly concerning that there were 73 occasions (0.6% of the total number of ads) when age-restricted ads were served to 10 of the children participating in the study who were registered as 17 or below. The ASA is following up with these advertisers (and the platforms, where relevant) to secure remedial action and future compliance.
The ASA and Committees of Advertising Practice have committed to limiting children’s exposure to age-restricted ads on web and social media platforms that are largely populated by adults. The regulatory bodies anticipate investigations and published rulings on this subject in 2023.
Exposure to age-restricted adverts on TV
A study conducted by the ASA compared online ads with TV ads and revealed that children were less likely to be exposed to age-restricted ads on TV. In the course of the week, each child saw 3.7 ads for alcohol and gambling online, with 0.7 likely violating the targeting rules, and 3.0 likely not. This is in contrast to the (not directly comparable) TV advertising exposure, where children aged 4-15 were exposed to 3.0 TV ads for the same products per week, with few in violation of the applicable scheduling regulations, according to the ASA’s report.
In support of the ASA, and any infrequent cases where advertisers refuse to alter/withdraw a non-compliant ad online, ten of the world’s largest online advertising supply businesses have volunteered to take reasonable measures in raising awareness to advertisers of their obligations in aiding to comply with age-restricted advertising rules online.
A look to the future on this shows a public report in early 2023 by the ASA on any enforcement action it takes from their learnings through the 100 Children report.
Why this matters:
The ASA are looking to advertisers and their agencies to tighten their targeting tools, and ensure that they are doing everything in their capacity to prevent age-restricted adverts reaching child audiences. The increased enforcement from the ASA is likely to have a harsh impact on the reach for advertisers with particular industries such as alcohol and gambling. It is essential that such advertisers are aware of the impact this will have on the marketing in their industry, and consider the implications sooner rather than later.