Following publication of the Bailey Report on the commercialisation of childhood in June 2011, the Committee of Advertising Practice, which writes the CAP Code of Advertising administered by the Advertising Standards Authority, is considering whether to prohibit paid use of kids as brand ambassadors. Hannah Willson reports.
Who: Committee of Advertising Practice
When: 13 January 2012
Law stated as at: 1 February 2012
The Committee of Advertising Practice ("CAP") has launched a review of the use of children as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing. Reg Bailey's report 'Letting Children be Children' published in June 2011 regarding the sexualisation and commercialisation of children recommended that CAP, and other marketing bodies, should review whether self-regulatory codes, such as the CAP Code (administered by the Advertising Standards Authority), should prohibit employment of children under the age of 16 where they are paid, or paid in kind to promote products, brands or services.
Bailey was appointed by the Secretary of State after election promises. His review builds on previous work such as by Professor Tanya Byron on child internet safety in 2008 and 2010 and has at its heart the concern that children are growing up too quickly. Bailey's review includes a list of fourteen recommendations and identifies who should be implementing them.
'The Pledge', another recommendation of Bailey and an initiative by the Advertising Association ("AA"), shows that the advertising industry is taking this issue seriously and is willing to take the necessary steps or pledges to protect children. The Pledge was introduced in October 2011 and a number of companies have signed up and pledged not to employ children to market a brand by commercialising the child's friendships.
The basic principle set out in the Pledge, otherwise called the "Best Practice Principle on the use of under 16s in brand ambassador and peer-to-peer marketing" is as follows:
"Young people under the age of 16 should not be employed and directly or indirectly paid or paid-in-kind to actively promote brands, products, goods, services, causes or ideas to their peers, associates or friends."
Two exceptions are (1) child performers (in accordance with EU law the AA document states, under-16s may be employed to appear in advertisements with local authority permission) and (2) sponsorship where the AA document says:
"Exceptionally talented and high-profile young people in sports and entertainment may be contacted by companies to use the companies' brands, products, goods and services. In those unusual circumstances, direct presentation or promotion to their peers, friends or associates by the young person should not be required or expected."
The Pledge clarifies that it is "not intended to apply to every instance where a child is involved in promotional marketing activity, only to marketing activity which commercialises a child's relationship with peers, associates or friends through employment involving payment or payment-in-kind for active promotion of a brand, product, good, service, cause or idea."
Why this matters:
Rule 5 of the Cap Code (12th edition) deals with the use of children in advertising as well as marketing communications addressed to or targeted directly at children under the age of 16 and, although not going as far as the Pledge, it does go some way to ensure that advertising is appropriate for the age of the intended recipient.
CAP's review will require it to gain an understanding of where, when and how brand ambassadors and peer-to-peer marketing are used as well as reviewing the impact and success of the Pledge to date.
CAP is encouraging responses from relevant stakeholders and intends to make its findings public in December 2012, thus ensuring it is able to take advantage of the Pledge 12 months after it has started. The outcome of this review may result in a full scale consultation and amendment to the CAP Code, although if any change to the CAP Code is to be implemented, it is not going to happen for at least another year.