‘Let children be children’ was launched today by Reg Bailey, chief executive of Mother’s Union, at a primary school in Balham, London. It is the second government review into the commercial world in three years, and has the personal backing of the prime minister.
Advertising to children has been mentioned specifically by both David Cameron and Nick Clegg, and the threat of legislative action is high.
So what should the advertising and media industries make of Reg’s report? There are 14 recommendations, made largely to business and regulators. Only one requires direct government intervention, an age-rating system for music videos.
Elsewhere, Bailey (and therefore David Cameron) is looking to industry and regulators to put a stop to certain practices.
Most notably, magazines and newspapers that have ‘sexual imagery’ on the front, should be covered up. Likewise, outdoor media owners who place saucy billboards should refrain from doing so near schools.
There are three clear practical difficulties.
1) Who decides what is ‘sexual’ and what’s not? 2) What if you can use sexual imagery in a good way near a school, like an ad for a sexual health clinic or condoms? And 3) what will the great British public say?
Advertisers, media and regulators have 18 months to demonstrate positive action, or they will face the heavy hand of statutory intervention.
The 14 recommendations are:
Magazines and newspapers with ‘sexual imagery’ on their covers in easy sight of children should be covered up. ACTION: publishers, distributors, retailers
Reduce the amount of outdoor ads containing ‘sexual imagery’ where children are likely to see them. ACTION: advertisers, ad industry bodies and ASA
Tighten up pre-watershed TV content. ACTION: ofcom, broadcasters
Introduce age-ratings for music videos (remove exemption from Video Recordings Act). ACTION: Government
Make it easy for parents to block dodgy internet content. ACTION: UKCCIS & Internet industry
As a matter of urgency – develop a retail code on retailing to children. ACTION: British Retail Consortium
Ensure advertising regulation reflects parents and kids views. ACTION: ASA
Prohibit employment of ‘brand mbassadors’ under-16. ACTION: CAP, Advertising Association and ‘relevant regulators’
Define a child as under-16 in all types of advertising regulation. ACTION: ASA
Raise parental awareness of advertising and marketing techniques and regulation. ACTION: ASA & Advertising Association
Beef up media literacy. ACTION: media literacy providers, ofcom, BBC
Ensure greater transparency with a single website for regulators. ACTION: regulators
Beef up complaints sections of business websites. ACTION: All business
Propose legislation if industry does not demonstrate progress in 18 months. ACTION: Government