Who: The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 11 February 2021
Law stated as at: 29 March 2021
The ASA has published its third report in its year-long project aimed at monitoring and tackling age-restricted ads appearing in children’s online media.
Under the Advertising Code, advertisers are required to target age-restricted ads away from children. The ASA’s latest quarterly review sets out the information gathered on age-restricted ads appearing on a sample of 49 websites and 12 YouTube channels attracting a disproportionately high child audience between October and December 2020.
Key findings from the report, include the following:
- There were a lower number of ads found to have broken the rules than in the ASA’s first and second reports.
- In particular, there has been a significant fall in the number of HFSS ads appearing in children’s online media (although this was still the sector with the highest number of breaches overall).
- In total, 47 age-restricted ads were found to have broken the advertising rules (with 21 different advertisers placing age-restricted ads on 23 websites and eight YouTube channels aimed at, or attracting a disproportionately large, child audience).
The ASA sees the improved compliance of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) ads as particularly significant and note that follow-up work between the ASA and HFSS advertisers found in breach of the rules alongside the ASA’s block listing of monitored sites appear to have had a positive impact on reducing the number of breaches.
The ASA now expect to see further improvements in the January to March 2021 monitoring that is currently being undertaken.
Guy Parker, the chief executive of ASA, said:
“We’re pleased to see the number of age-restricted ads we picked up on, in particular for HFSS food and drink, reduce significantly. We remain alive to concerns and we will be monitoring and reporting on this again. But we’re making significant progress in our ambition to build a culture of zero tolerance for age-restricted ads appearing on websites aimed at children and we expect that progress to continue.”
Once current monitoring is completed, the ASA expect to publish a report for Q1 2020. They will then publish a final report this summer which will reflect on this year-long project. The ASA have also reserved the right to publicise repeat offenders in this report.
Why this matters:
The ASA’s continued reporting and action in this area demonstrates its commitment to taking a strict approach to age-restricted ads and the protection of children online. Advertisers should therefore ensure that they continue to take measures to target age-restricted ads away from children, by avoiding placing ads on websites and channels which are either aimed at children or have a disproportionately large, child audience.