Topic: Social Media
Who: The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)
When: 28 February 2013
Law stated as at: 28 March 2013
CAP has published guidance for marketers on how existing rules within the CAP code should be applied to the use of children
under 16 as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing.
Importantly, this help note recognises that social media is more and more commonly being used to encourage children to endorse a product in return for a reward targeted specifically at that particular group, such as branded goods or clothing, or unlocked levels to video games.
The purpose of this guidance is to clarify that the CAP Code will apply to marketing communications where there is a reciprocal relationship between a child and a marketer, where the editorial control rests with the marketer. This would include content written by users where the marketer has the ability to review and potentially withdraw content.
Accordingly, the greater the control of the marketer, the more likely it
is that the marketer would be subject to the CAP Code.
A child’s recommendation can be a powerful marketing tool
One example of the Code’s application would be where a child “likes” a brand on Facebook, potentially in return for an incentive or prize, and his “liking” the product could be seen by his online friendship group.
Significantly, a recommendation by a child’s peers is likely to hold
much more sway than an advert from an external third party, and should be considered a very powerful marketing tool. Promoters realising the potential of children as a marketing tool will therefore be keen to exploit this, and the new CAP guidance provides some much needed parameters to be applied.
However, where the child receives no “material benefit” in return for promoting a brand or product, the CAP Code will not apply.
The requirements of the new CAP guidance:
Promotions must be easily identifiable
Communications made through brand ambassadors or peer-to-peer marketing must be obviously identifiable, stating who is making the advertisement, or where twitter is being used, using hash tags such as #advertisement. Where the promotions are being posted by children to their online friendship groups, the promotion must state that the author has received a reward in return, for example “Charlie has posted this and received a free t-shirt”.
Promotions must not be harmful to children
The guidance imposes a restriction on any promotions which are likely to result in the physical, moral or mental harm of children, for example, encouraging practices which may be unsafe for a child are prohibited. It must be easy for children to judge the size, characteristics and performance of the products and adult permission must be a requisite before the child is able to commit to purchasing costly or complex products.
No “bullying” tactics
Also, significantly, the communication should not do anything which is likely to make children feel inferior or unpopular if they do not engage in peer-to-peer marketing, such as suggesting that all of that child’s friends have a certain product, and therefore they should have it too.
Children are much more susceptible to feelings of “not fitting in” and marketing promotions should not intensify this.
Promotions should not undermine parental authority
Also likely to go down well with parents is the requirement that marketing communications must not explicitly encourage children to pester their parents to buy a particular product for them, such as making statements like “ask your mum to get this for you”.
Why this matters:
These rules are in addition to the children’s section of the CAP Code, which also applies.
Further, the Advertising Association has separately published its own
pledge, which has been incorporated into various industry association codes and endorsed by entities such as the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers.
This includes the promise not to employ (directly or indirectly), paid or unpaid young people under 16 to promote brands, products, goods, services, causes or ideas to their friends or peers.
Any promoter wishing to harness the potential rise in customers resulting from using children as “brand ambassadors”, or through the medium of peer-to-peer marketing, will do well to read and digest this new guidance.