If you want your advertising or marketing collateral to target children, you should be familiar with the relevant industry standards. The body that regulates advertising in Australia is Ad Standards. Ad Standards administers several codes on behalf of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), including the code for advertising and marketing communications to children (the ‘children’s code’). A panel appointed by Ad Standards will determine whether your advertising and marketing collateral targets children, and if so, whether it does so appropriately.

This article will outline which advertising guidelines affect advertising to children in Australia and what these guidelines prohibit.

How Will the Panel Determine Whether The Children’s Code Applies to My Business’ Advertising or Marketing Collateral?

Your marketing collateral includes any media you use to promote your brand, such as:

  • brochures;
  • press releases;
  • business cards; and
  • social media content.

The children’s code is likely to apply to your advertising or marketing collateral if it: 

  • is directed towards children (i.e. children that are 14 years old or younger); and 
  • has a ‘principal appeal’ to children (i.e. depicts goods or services that are most commonly used by children).

The panel will look at several factors, including but not limited to the:

  • combination and effect of any visual techniques;
  • product you are promoting; and
  • age of the characters or actors in the advertisement.

The children’s code works in conjunction with several other AANA codes, including the AANA:

  • code of ethics;
  • food and beverages advertising code;
  • environment claims code; and
  • wagering advertising code.

What Does The Children’s Code Prohibit?

The children’s code upholds strict regulations relating to advertising or marketing collateral that targets children. For example, your advertising must not:

  • be misleading or deceptive towards children;
  • include words like ‘only’ or ‘just’ when communicating the price of your goods, services or facilities;
  • include sexual images or imply that using your goods, services or facilities will enhance a child’s sexuality;
  • fail to clearly explain any disclaimers or qualifiers to children;
  • portray images that may unduly frighten or distress children;
  • use popular personalities (including any animated personalities) to advertise or market your goods, services or facilities to the extent that it is unclear whether it is a commercial promotion or program content; 
  • imply that your goods, services or facilities will suit every family’s budget;
  • be for, or relate in any way to, alcohol products or companies that supply alcohol products;
  • undermine parental or carer’s authority or judgment;
  • imply that children who have your products are superior to those that do not have your products;
  • portray images that show unsafe use of your goods, services or facilities, encourage dangerous activities or create unrealistic impressions about safety; or
  • promote unhealthy eating and drinking habits (see also the AANA food and beverages advertising code).

Privacy

If your advertising or marketing collateral collects a child’s personal information, you must include a consent statement. A consent statement requires that the child obtains his or her parent or guardian’s consent before the collection or disclosure of the child’s personal information.

What Type of Advertisements Attract Complaints?

Even if you have the best intentions, your advertising or marketing material may still attract public scrutiny over whether it is:

  • considered advertising or marketing material aimed primarily at children; and
  • compliant with the children’s code.

For example, a billboard advertisement promoting Streets ice cream recently faced complaints. The advertisement showed a bitten-off ice cream in a bikini showing white ice cream underneath a green coating. A speech bubble with the words, “I CAN SEE YOUR WHITE BITS” came from another ice cream. A complainant claimed that ‘white bits’ was a euphemism for women’s ‘pink bits’, i.e. genitalia. The complainant argued that ice cream products are predominantly marketed to young children and that the advertisement breached the children’s code in respect of sexualisation and social values.

However, the Advertising Standards Board, as Ad Standards was then known, did not find that the advertisement breached the children’s code. The Board found that, although the image was attractive to children, the depiction of an ice cream in a bikini was directed more towards adults than children.

The Board also found that the words “I CAN SEE YOUR WHITE BITS” would be understood by children as a factual comment (i.e., the viewer can see the inside of a green ice cream). Finally, the Board considered whether the products depicted in the advertisement targeted children and primarily appealed to children. They found that the products appealed more to adults. The complaint was unsuccessful.

Key Takeaways

There are many ways for you to promote and market your business effectively to children. However, you should ensure that your advertising and marketing materials targeting children comply with relevant industry codes and AANA codes.

You should also note that your advertising and marketing materials are subject to consumer laws. For example, these laws prohibit you from engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct. You must also not make false or misleading claims or statements about the supply of your products or services.

If you have any questions about how the AANA codes apply to your advertising and marketing material, or if you need assistance in dealing with Ad Standards, contact LegalVision’s marketing compliance lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

 

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