Advertising Association to gather experts to examine children and advertising

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Children and advertising: expert panel to examine industry practices
Children and advertising: expert panel to examine industry practices

The Advertising Association (AA) is to launch an expert industry panel to examine industry practices around advertising and marketing communications to children, as laid out in its report to the Government's Bailey Review.

Details of the media and advertising personnel to be involved in the new panel have yet to be confirmed, but it will comprise specialists in the children’s market, along with an independent academic expert.

The industry panel formed part of the body’s key recommendation to the Department of Education’s Bailey Review, which is expected to announce its findings by the middle of this month.

Those responsible for marketing and advertising to children have found themselves under increased scrutiny ever since the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats chose to focus on concerns in their pre-election manifestos last February.

The coalition Government created a "childhood and families taskforce" following the election in June.

Deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, said at its launch: "We are committed to cracking down on irresponsible advertising and marketing. If we are really going to restore and protect the innocence of childhood, action here is absolutely key."

The AA’s report – ‘Parents, children and the commercial world: facts, issues and solutions’ – includes contributions from the industry think-tank Credos, a review of the marketplace, and primary research into children’s and parents’ attitudes to advertising techniques and practices.

It concludes that while children’s values have not fundamentally changed, parental concern about them "growing up" is very real.

It highlighted an unhelpful lack of knowledge around both the commercial content their children engage with and the level of recourse available to them.

Tim Lefroy, chief executive of the AA, said: "Advertising and the commercial world is a big part of what makes childhood enjoyable and fun, but we mustn’t forget that kids are learning to understand it and need to be treated with care."

He stressed that the current system of self-regulation "is strong", but said it would only stay that way if "we understand our market and our customers’ concerns". The new industry panel will be tasked with ensuring that level of knowledge.

Some of the emerging issues identified in the AA report to be investigated by the panel include "peer-to-peer" activity, "brand ambassadors", age verification, and the placement of age-inappropriate advertising.

The AA is also calling on the Bailey Review to support media literacy programmes (such as Media Smart), which the Buckingham Review highlighted as an important strategy to boost children’s ‘advertising literacy’.

Last year, the Advertising Association launched Check (www.check.uk.com), a website that brings together all the existing regulations around marketing to, or communicating with, children for the benefit of industry.

The site aims to bridge the knowledge gap that has appeared as new marketing techniques, and their corresponding regulation, proliferate.

It has unofficially been suggested that a similar catch-all website for consumers could be a welcome and useful resource.

The advertising industry remains uneasy about what the recommendations of the Baily Review might unfold in the coming days.

Prime Minister David Cameron ratcheted up tensions when he publicly accused marketers of exploiting children by launching "irresponsible" marketing campaigns during an address on the country’s "well-being" in November.

The Advertising Association's full contribution to the Bailey Review can be downloaded via this link (http://tinyurl.com/6c6mz3n).

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