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Code for Advertising to Children

April 2006

CODE FOR ADVERTISING TO CHILDREN

INTRODUCTION

The purpose of the Code is to serve as a guide to advertisers and agencies in preparing advertising messages which adequately recognise the special characteristics of the children's audience and in particular their vulnerability and to properly safeguard their interests.

Responsible advertising of products and services normally used by children, and the depiction of children in advertising in general, can serve not only to inform children of these products and services but also about many aspects of society and the world in which they live.

Special care should be taken in advertising to children.

Children are entitled to certain rights and protection pursuant to the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child ("Convention"). Article 13 recognises the child's right to freedom of expression. "This right shall include the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds." Children therefore have the right to receive all kinds of information including advertisements. However, there are various fetters to that right; for instance Article 17(e) calls for "appropriate guidelines for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being." This Code provides the "appropriate guidelines" for advertisements directed at children. Furthermore, special notice is to be taken of Article 3 of the Convention, which states, "the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration" and therefore the need to extend a duty of care to protect children.

All advertisements shall adhere to the Principles and Guidelines set out in this Code. The Code is designed to ensure that advertising to children will be conducted in a manner that is socially responsible and does not mislead or deceive children.

In interpreting the Code emphasis will be placed on the Principles and the spirit and intention of the Code. An advertisement that does or does not adhere to the letter of a particular guideline nevertheless may or may not be in breach of the Code, depending on its compliance with the Principles and respect of the spirit and intention of the Code.

Note: Attention is drawn to the New Zealand Television Broadcasters code "Getting it Right for Children" which deals with such issues as the number of television advertisements in children's programmes. The code is available on www.nztbc.co.nz.

DEFINITIONS

For the purposes of this Code:

The term "children" means all persons below the age of 14.

"Advertisement" includes all advertisements in all forms of media directed at children whether contained in children's media or otherwise. Reference should be made to the Interpretation section of the Codes of Practice.

"Appropriate media and industry Codes" includes the Television Broadcasters' Council Children's Broadcasting Code, and any other industry Codes endorsed by the ASA.

Principle 1 - Advertisements should comply with the laws of New Zealand and appropriate media and industry Codes.

Principle 2 - Advertisements should observe a high standard of social responsibility.

Guidelines

2(a)

Advertisements should not portray violence, undue aggression, or menacing or horrific elements likely to disturb children.

2(b)

Advertisements should not encourage anti-social behaviour or depict children behaving in an anti-social manner, eg. vindictiveness and bullying, unless the purpose of the advertisement is to discourage such behaviour.

2(c)

Children in advertisements should not behave in a socially unacceptable manner, bearing in mind their age, unless the purpose of the advertisement is to discourage such behaviour.

2(d)

Children should not be urged in advertisements to ask their parents, guardians or caregivers to buy particular products for them.

2(e)

Advertisements should not suggest to children any feeling of inferiority or lack of social acceptance for not having the advertised product.

2(f)

Advertisements, except safety messages, should not contain any statement or visual presentation that could have the effect of portraying children in unsafe acts, showing them in unsafe situations, encouraging them to consort with strangers, or behaving in an unsafe way.

2(g)

Advertisements, except safety messages, should not show products being used in an unsafe or dangerous manner, or which would be unsafe if used by children without proper supervision.

2(h)

Advertisements should not depict toy weapons which are realistic (in size, shape and colour) and can be confused with real weapons.

2(i)

Advertisements should not portray sexually suggestive images, or images that are degrading to any individual or group.

2(j)

Children should not be encouraged in advertisements to participate in gambling or gaming. (Refer to the Code for Advertising Gaming and Gambling)

2(k)

Advertisements should not undermine the role of parents in educating children to be healthy and socially responsible individuals.

2(l)

Persons, characters or groups who have achieved particular celebrity status with children shall not be used in advertisements to promote food or drink in such a way so as to undermine a healthy diet taking into account the Ministry of Health's 'Food and Nutrition Guidelines' for children.

Principle 3 - Advertisements should not by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim mislead or deceive or be likely to mislead or deceive children, abuse the trust of or exploit the lack of knowledge of children, exploit the superstitious or without justifiable reason play on fear.

Guidelines

3(a)

Advertisements must be clearly recognisable as such by children and separated from editorial, programmes or other non-advertising material. If there is any likelihood of advertisements being confused with editorial or programme content, they should be clearly labelled "advertisement" or identified in a clear manner.

3(b)

Advertisements should take into account the level of knowledge, sophistication and maturity of the intended audience. In particular advertisements should not be directed at younger children who may have a lack of ability to comprehend the purpose of advertising and differentiate between it and non-advertising messages.

3(c)

Care should be taken to ensure that advertisements are able to be understood by children to whom the advertisements are directed, are not ambiguous, do not mislead as to the true size, value, nature, durability and performance of the advertised product and contain warning information if the product is unsafe when used by younger children.

3(d)

If extra items are needed to use the product (eg. batteries) to produce the result shown or described (eg. paint, dolls clothes) this should be made clear. A product that is part of a series should be clearly indicated as such as well as the method of acquiring the series.

3(e)

In the case of a product that must be assembled, this should be made clear, and where appropriate, the source of power and performance should be indicated.

3(f)

If price is mentioned, the complete price of the product should be made clear, and advertisements should clearly indicate the cost of those items that constitute the original purchase and additional items that must be purchased separately.

3(g)

Where reference is made to a competition the rules should be made clear and the value of prizes and the chances of winning should not be exaggerated.

3(h)

Any reference to a premium (eg. an additional product or service offered free, at a reduced price or as a prize) should be clearly displayed and conditions relating to it should be clearly represented.

3(i)

Care should be taken to ensure advertisements do not mislead as to the nutritive value of any food. Foods high in sugar, fat and/or salt, especially those marketed to and/or favoured by children, should not be portrayed in any way that suggests they are beneficial to health.

Principle 4 - Advertisements should not encourage inappropriate purchase or use including excessive consumption.

Guidelines

4(a)

Children are not a homogeneous group but have varying levels of maturity and understanding. Care needs to be taken that the product advertised and style of advertisement are appropriate for the audience to whom it is primarily directed.

4(b)

Advertisements soliciting responses incurring a fee to telephone or text should state, "Children ask your parents first" or similar words.

4(c)

Extreme care should be taken in requesting or recording the names, addresses and other personal details of children to ensure that children's privacy rights are fully protected and the information is not used in an inappropriate manner.

Note: Notice should also be taken of Principle 3 of the Privacy Act 1993.

4(d)

Care should be taken with advertisements promoting a premium or loyalty/continuity programme to ensure that inappropriate purchase or excessive consumption was not a likely outcome.

4(e)

For advertisements for food or beverages attention is drawn to the Code for Advertising Food and in particular Principle 3.

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Advertising Standards Authority New Zealand, PO Box 10-675, Wellington 6143. PH (04) 472 7852 FAX (04) 471 1785 Email asa@asa.co.nz