Changes to the advertising code fail to protect children
A complaint to the Ad Standards has shown that despite updates to the AANA Food and Beverage Code, loopholes within the Code allow ads for unhealthy food to be shown during prime-time TV shows. This demonstrates that the changes in the code have made no difference in protecting children from exposure to unhealthy food advertising.
The ad featured a child convincing the man she is walking with to stop looking at his phone and dance with her. She does that by placing a packet of Oreo biscuits on the phone.
The complainant argued the ad was targeted at children and therefore breached the Code. They stated the ad was for an unhealthy product and shown from the child’s perspective so likely to appeal to children. Furthermore, it appeared during the final of Lego Masters, an early evening show with a projected viewing audience in Melbourne of more than 40,000 children aged 15 years or under.
The panel agreed that Oreos are an unhealthy food. The decision of the panel that the ad did not breach the Code drew on the term “principally” in the Code. They ruled that while the theme of dancing in the ad might be appealing to children, it would not be “principally” appealing to children. As well, the audience under 15 years was under the 25% total audience threshold.
What does this mean?
The changes in the industry-developed Code still provide loopholes that allow many children to be exposed to ads for unhealthy food. Using the term “principally” allows ads to be ruled as appealing to a broad audience. This gives advertisers permission to advertise to children as part of that audience. Using a percentage of the total audience as a threshold means tens of thousands of children see these ads in popular TV shows due to the large total audience. Clearly the changes to the Code have made no difference to the problems we highlighted with the previous Codes.
Read the Case report at Ad Standards Case Number 0135-22