The Children's Food Trust are back again with their proposals for advertising bans and controls. And, since it's the enemy of choice, the attack on advertising is couched in terms of a criticism of self-regulation.
“The ASA has proved itself unwilling and unable to fulfil this role,” he added.
“In industry after industry – from MPs’ expenses, to phone-hacking, to banks, and now in online marketing – self-regulation has proven to be a failed model. More of the same is not what is needed to protect children’s health or to give parents more help in making healthy choices for their family.”
The problem, we're told, is that the self-regulation of advertising (remember that broadcast advertising isn't self-regulated but regulated by statute) under the aegis of the Committee of Advertising Practice has allowed advertisers of food products to use online advertising. This, of course, means that some of the adverts are seen by children.
What struck me about the reports from the Trust is that the main evidence it presents (about four or five websites) simply doesn't indicate anything different from what is allowable in broadcast advertising already. However, they also demonstrate the scale of parental irresponsibility when it comes to Internet use:
Social networking websites, like Facebook, are especially popular amongst children and young people, 28 per cent of 8–11 year olds and 75 per cent of 12–15 year olds have an active social networking site profile. One third of 8–12 year olds have a profile on sites that require users to register as being aged 13 or over.
So let's be clear about this - Rowntree, Krave, Cheesestrings and Nesquik are advertising in media that have a 13 age minimum. But because irresponsible parents allow their under-13 children to use those sites those advertisers should be banned from doing so?
Yet again we are seeing the use of poor quality research - with no peer review and no robust methodology - to justify arguments for advertising bans. Controls proposed solely because some parents can't say 'no' to their children. Meaning that children see advertising that they would not see on a commercial children's TV channel - advertising that complies with the agree codes of practice. Indeed, because the websites all show TV advertisements, these are codes of practice subject to statutory regulation.
But I guess that blaming advertising gets a better headline than blaming parents for letting their ten year olds go on Facebook (where an advert for Sugar Puffs is probably the least of worries).