Food research claims big reduction in ads to children

Food manufacturers, retailers and fast food outfits have been under the cosh for years now (decades actually) for flogging unsuitable products to children via television advertising.

Unknown-2Some opponents would ban such companies advertising in programmes aimed at children under 12 completely and such a move would seem to make sense: it would cost broadcasters some revenue, sure, but there’s plenty more where that came from.

Which makes you wonder why supposedly responsible companies still insist they should be able to advertise some products to children (the ones that meet nutrition guidelines).

Anyway, the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has commissioned some research from Accenture into the subject and this is what it purports to show:

According to newly released data, European children are exposed to significantly less food marketing than in 2005.

Independent data from Accenture Media Management show how the world’s biggest food brands have significantly changed the products they advertise to children in the European Union since 2005 on TV. The results demonstrate how brands are either voluntarily pulling out of or only advertising products that meet strict nutrition criteria during children’s programming and that children are being exposed to considerably less advertising for all food products across all TV programming.

The latest data show how on average across all EU markets since 2005 that children are exposed to 31 per cent less ads for EU pledge products on TV across all programming. They see 47 per cent less ads for products that do not meet the nutrition criteria and 82 per cent less for products not meeting the criteria in and around children’s programmes. Companies’ overall compliance rate with their commitments on TV was 98.1 per cent.

The commitments also extend to schools, children’s print publications, online advertising and company-owned websites. For company-owned websites, the European Advertising Standards Alliance verified 343 websites across the EU to check whether companies were directly targeting children under 12 with products not meeting the nutrition criteria. They found 22 websites to be in breach, meaning a total compliance rate of 94 per cent.

Last year, the companies announced the development of even stricter common nutrition criteria that would determine, where applicable, what products can be advertised to children under 12. This decision was publicly applauded by the Director-General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission, Paola Testori-Coggi. These criteria will come into force at the end of 2014.

The group also announced that the fast food service restaurant, the Quick Group, joined the initiative, taking coverage of EU food marketing spend to over 80 per cent.

WFA Managing Director Stephan Loerke says; “Independent data show how European children are seeing less and less food ads on TV, especially for products not fulfilling strict nutrition criteria. This is important given children still spend far more time in front of TV than any other media. Going forward, we are delighted to be implementing even stricter common criteria while ensuring our commitments apply equally across other media channels, including digital. Effective coverage of online and company-owned websites is critical to ensuring the continued effectiveness of this self-regulatory initiative.”

None of which will shut up opponents, who are now aiming their fire at sugar levels. But it looks a thorough piece of work, in support of a pledge made to the EU, although you never can be quite sure with these big research exercises.

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