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Feb 10, 2017

Extra salt with your can of worms, sir?

by Mike Benns - Board Director

Extra salt with your can of worms, sir?

On the 1st July this year the ASA will implement new rules as part of the CAP code for HFSS foods (High in Fat, Sugar and Salt).

The rules will apply to non-broadcast media so will affect marketing communication across a broad spectrum including press, magazines, websites and social media.

The major complications come as the rules require advertisers not to place HFSS ads in children’s media (or any media come to that) where they make up 25% or more of the audience. This raises all sorts of questions about reliable audience data and the guidelines given by the ASA are themselves a bit ambiguous…

“The ASA will expect advertisers to make a case that they’ve targeted their ad responsibly and stuck to the rules. There are a variety of industry accepted measures from third party data providers. However, media owners might have their own proprietary data. The ASA will assess data on its merits.”

Media owners are going to have to be a lot more certain of their audience and provide robust data to back it up. Otherwise, advertisers will be reluctant to place ads in that channel..

“If you can’t be certain about the audience of a particular platform or media, … avoid placing HFSS advertising there.”

I can’t help feeling this is opening a can of worms, albeit extra fat ones with added salt and sugar! There are a lot of media channels, most notably on Youtube, for example, which never set out to target children but are now avidly watched or consumed by teenagers. How are these going to survive if there is uncertainty and subjectivity over the audience profile?

Shopper communications and on-pack promotions remain unaffected by these advertising-specific rules so brands can still run child-oriented campaigns at arguably the most important place, the point of purchase.

But… how long will it be before a ruling is brought in to curb these media channels. After all, childhood obesity is a huge issue but then so is heart disease in the over 50s. Only time will tell if these measures make any difference but in the meantime, where’s that can of worms.. I’m feeling quite peckish!

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