WORLD: ANALYSIS - Children don't have to be out of the picture without TV ads

Sweden and Canada prove there are ways to overcome ad bans.

Picture the scene. You work on the account of an FMCG giant which is launching a new chocolate-flavoured drink for the under-tens. Trouble is, you can't use TV, so Saturday morning and teatime children's shows are out.

It's a situation which UK advertisers could find themselves in, as they are currently waiting to see how far the Ofcom codes on advertising to children will be tightened. So how do marketers manage to get their brand known among their young target consumers in those parts of the world where they are either banned or severely restricted from using TV?

Canada and Sweden are two frequently used examples when it comes to stringent legislation on advertising to children, although their media landscapes are different. TV attracts only one-fifth of adspend in Sweden, whereas in Canada it's much more dominant, coming a close second to newspaper advertising with 40.6 per cent.

Swedish advertisers are forbidden to produce TV advertising for airing at any time that targets the under-12s. This law has been in effect since 1996, and chiefly affects the commercial channel based in Sweden, TV4.

Sweden is often quoted by those opposed to any UK advertising ban as an example of why any such law should not be applied here. An NOP poll conducted in 1999, found that just as many Swedish parents complained of being pestered by their children to buy certain products as parents in Spain where advertisers are free to target children with TV ads.

The World Federation of Advertisers takes the view that bans on advertising to children don't have the kind of social effect that legislators hope for. And, the WFA communications manager, Will Gilroy, says such laws are inevitably anti-competitive. "Small- to medium-sized brands are muscled out in markets where they aren't allowed to advertise. It can also ultimately mean that prices rise."

Marketers in Sweden (and also Norway, which has similar rules) have found ways to circumvent the TV limitation. Advertising in comics is a popular technique, with Egmont Publishing's Kalle Anka (Donald Duck) magazine hosting ads from a variety of big brands.

Direct mail addressed to Swedish children is also banned. But DM is used extensively to reach the large number of rural households in Sweden. McDonald's, for example, uses the paper in trays in its restaurants to encourage children to sign up for its Ronald McDonald and Friends magazine. It is addressed to a parent with the child's name underneath.

"Addressable promotions are common in Sweden, particularly for toy manufacturers," Petter Nylander, the chief executive of OMD Sweden, says. "We have a lot of information about household purchasing habits."

But the power of Sweden's laws to reduce the effect of advertising to children is undoubtedly blunted by the fact that two commercial satellite channels, TV3 and TV5, are beamed into Swedish homes from the UK.

Being based outside of Sweden provides their owner, Viasat Broadcasting, with the legal loophole that allows it to carry ads targeting children. All major toy and food advertisers buy airtime on the family oriented TV3 (TV5 airs more adult programming, with many US imports, hence it features in the media schedules of brands looking to reach young teens).

TV3 has 65 to 70 per cent penetration of Swedish homes. Its existence, with a full complement of child-oriented advertising, is arguably one reason why pester power has not been eradicated there.

In Canada, however, there are fewer opportunities for advertisers to use TV to target children. Advertisers in the English-speaking part of the country cannot screen ads aimed at children from 9am to 3pm. For ads scheduled to run outside these hours, advertisers are required to submit scripts or tapes to the Advertising Standards Council for pre-clearance.

This applies to an ad that is explicitly aimed at children or one which will be aired around children's programming.

In French-speaking Canada (Quebec), the rules are even stricter and apply during all hours. Marketers are unable to use TV ads aimed at under-13s if the audience of the programme they are scheduled to run next to comprises more than 15 per cent children (or 5 per cent for some product categories).

Media planners working on product categories that appeal to children are faced with the dilemma of trying to work out whether even to put TV in their schedules. "It certainly affects the planning process," Caroline Gagnon, the vice-president and director of media at M2 Universal in Montreal, says. "It doesn't always mean we avoid using TV as sometimes the numbers of parents we can reach still make it worth it. But it does make you think twice whether you are investing in the right place."

The irony of the Quebec situation for advertisers is that the restrictions have improved sponsorship opportunities. For last year's launch of Yoplait's Tubes, Yoplait sponsored the aquatic section of Quebec's Granby Zoo - now named Parc Aquatique Amazoo Yoplait, as well as ads in comics. Also, much of Quebec's TV programming is produced locally and broadcasters are open to collaboration. Kellogg, for example, was able to get its Mr Mini Wheats character to host an edition of the popular family programme La Fureur.

So restrictions have forced advertisers of children's products to find alternatives to TV, usually resulting in a more innovative creative solution.


Distribution of adspend %

Newspapers 40.8

TV 40.6

Magazines 7.0

Radio 6.4

Outdoor 5.2

Source: Nielsen Media Research.


Distribution of adspend %

Newspapers 56.4

TV 21.3

Magazines 14.7

Outdoor 4.0

Radio 3.1

Cinema 0.5

Source: WARC.