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CAP launches new UK Advertising Codes

On the 16th March the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) launched new UK Advertising Codes after a comprehensive review and full public consultation.

This was the first ever concurrent review of all advertising codes in nearly fifty years of their history and more than 400 pieces of legislation and 30,000 consultation responses were assessed. Participants were derived from a broad range of stakeholders including Government, parents and children’s groups, consumer protection bodies, regulators, charities, religious organisations as well as the media industry.  The new codes will come into force on 1st September 2010 giving advertisers and the media industry nearly six months to familiarise themselves with the new rules.

TenNine are currently reviewing the new Codes in as much as they relate to our 11-18 year old audience in secondary education and in youth clubs. Initial consideration of the Code would suggest more than a tonal similarity with the “Best Practice Principles for Commercial Activities in Schools” developed by ISBA and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) which TenNine already subscribe to across all of our activities.

Some things spring from the page at the initial skim read.  For the purposes of the code, a child is someone under 16. You may wonder why this is of any note whatsoever, but something that has bedevilled debate in this area is simply “what is a child?”  There has been no exact definition.  The code for non-broadcast advertising says “children must not be encouraged to enter strange places or talk to strangers” (section 5.1.1).  I could not conceive of any commercial organisations who would want to do this anyway, but then I guessed that this may be regulation directed at the internet and contact with under-16s online. If this is indeed the case, some major corporations are going to have to have a rethink before September!

On a rather different note, I would like to introduce the concept of “positive pester power.”  We have all heard of pester power and pretty well all buy into the fact that it is not a good thing. May I suggest however that not all parents are equally equipped to raise healthy, well adjusted children. Schools and youth organisations are working hard to promote sensible eating in young people and sooner or later the food manufacturers will want to promote some of those healthy options to younger consumers.  Imagine then when section 5.9 of the code for broadcast advertising comes into play: “Advertisements must neither directly exhort children to buy a product or service nor encourage them to ask their parents, guardians or other persons to buy or enquire about a product or service for them.”  Regulation designed to prevent the worst happening could also prevent some positive outcomes; sometimes the child is father to the man.

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