Who: Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 11 and 12 May 2022
Law stated as at: 18 May 2022
The report details how children’s exposure to alcohol and gambling ads has reduced as a result of better ad targeting and placement. Some of the key findings include:
- Alcohol ads:
- Between 2010 and 2021, children’s exposure to alcohol advertising on TV decreased by three quarters, from an average of 3.2 ads per week in 2010 to 0.8 ads per week in 2021.
- The average number of alcohol ads children saw in 2021 (0.8 per week) reached the lowest level in the 12-year period covered.
- Exposure to alcohol ads has remained at similar levels for the past five years.
- Gambling ads:
- Between 2010 and 2021, children’s exposure to TV gambling ads decreased by just over a quarter from an average of 3.0 ads per week in 2010 to 2.2 ads per week in 2021.
- The 2021 exposure levels of 2.2 gambling ads per week represents the lowest level in the 12-year period covered and is half that of the peak average of 4.4 gambling ads per week in 2013.
The accompanying details on measuring exposure from a research perspective also discussed the following challenges:
- The ASA’s preferred approach when monitoring exposure to age-restricted ads is to analyse robust industry-standard data like the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB). BARB has adapted its methodologies to expand its measurement of the time spent viewing TV and viewing of programmes to also include broadcaster video-on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer and viewing across tablets, smartphones and PCs. It also now reports on the total time spent viewing subscription video-on-demand services and video-sharing platforms but the viewing of advertisements on these devices, services or platforms is not currently measured.
- The ASA notes that it is very aware that the extent, nature and precision of audience measurement data varies between media – and its guidance on media placement restrictions acknowledges this – and the ASA’s online regulation doesn’t have the benefit of comparative, industry-standard data for children’s exposure to ads.
- In the absence of robust, industry-standard online audience data, the ASA has focused instead on using technology to proactively identify age-restricted ads that, in breach of the advertising rules, are placed in children’s media online and served to children’s social media accounts – as seen with the following projects: Protecting Children Online; Protecting Children in Mixed-age Online Media; and Alcohol Ads in Social Media.
- The ASA’s next study, The 100 Children Report, will go further by providing a child’s eye view of the ads that children actually see online. Working with a panel of 100 children aged 11-17, from across the UK, the ASA intends to then be able to identify and take action against age-restricted ads served inappropriately to children’s websites and their social media accounts.
Why this matters:
The ASA continues to work tirelessly on ensuring children are protected from harmful advertising and the downward trend of exposure to alcohol and gambling ads continue. The report’s accompanying announcement around measuring exposure also flags how the ASA has developed and is continuing to innovate its research methods to meet the changes in technology. Advertisers and platforms should be aware of the ASA’s continued focus on this issue and the evolving technology used. It is very much the case that children may see and not be able to complain about an ad, but proactive technology can detect non-compliance and lead to action.