European children are exposed to significantly less food ads on TV according to recent research conducted by Accenture Media Management. The changes have come about as a result of the EU Pledge (www.eu-pledge.eu
), a commitment by twenty-one leading food and beverage brand owners to change the way they market their products to children across a variety of media. These companies represent well over 80% of food marketing spend in the EU.
The EU Pledge is a commitment originally announced back in 2007 by the World Federation of Advertisers as a common industry commitment to the EU Commission-led Platform for Action on Diet Physical Activity and Health
. The announcement of these latest results coincides with the Platform’s next meeting on 19th
As part of the initiative, some companies, such as Mars, Ferrero and Coca-Cola have committed not to advertise at all to children under twelve. Other companies with broader product portfolios, including Unilever, Nestlé and Mondelez, only advertise certain foods that meet strict nutrition criteria.
The results show that, compared to 2005, EU kids in 2014 are exposed to 88% less ads for products not meeting the nutrition criteria around children’s programmes and 52% less for products not meeting the criteria across all TV programming.
Irrespective of the nutrition criteria, children see 42% less TV ads for all products made by these twenty-one companies compared to 2005.
The company commitments also apply to print, the internet and company-owned websites. The European Advertising Standards Alliance
(EASA) has been charged with monitoring company commitments on their sites and found companies to be 97% compliant with their commitment.
Common nutrition criteria
Until now, companies that continued advertising certain products to children under twelve developed their own nutrition criteria. As of this year, these companies will apply common nutrition criteria
to define the limits for salt, sugar and fat that products or meals can contain if they are still to be marketed to children.
This significant move was announced to stakeholders
at the EU Platform in 2012 and was welcomed by regulators and NGOs alike. Then EU Director General for Health, Paola Testori Coggi, described it as “a very important step,” the Commission’s Director of Consumer Affairs, Despina Spanou, has called it “an unprecedented example
,” while European Heart Network Chief, Susanne Logstrup welcomed the news and “appreciated the difficulty of the effort.”
In November last year, the group went a step further. WFA presented the Platform with strengthened commitments
which would come into effect at the end of 2016. The pledge now extends its scope to cover more media as well as the content of marketing communications.
In addition to TV, print, internet (including company-owned websites), signatories will also apply their commitments to radio, cinema, DVD/CD-ROM, direct marketing, product placement, interactive games, mobile and SMS marketing.
The new policy will also cover creative execution, such as the use of celebrities, movie tie-ins and licensed characters that appeal primarily to under twelves. In the absence of audience data to verify target audiences, brand owners will assess the overall impression of the marketing communication to ensure non-compliant foods are not advertised in a way that is primarily directed to children under twelve.
Moving with the times
The EU pledge has been applauded
by EU Commissioners, Members of the European Parliament as well as national regulators. Even NGOs have welcomed our efforts as a step in the right direction. But we are not sitting on our laurels and are conscious that we need to move with the times and listen to stakeholder concerns.
The impact of our efforts to reduce children’s exposure to certain types of food ads on TV, print and on the internet has been unequivocally successful. Data from independent providers verify this trend. Even our most vehement critics acknowledge this.
We are doing what the WHO mandated in 2010: we are “reducing the impact on children of marketing of foods high in saturated fats, trans-fatty acids, free sugars, or salt.” [WHO Recommendation number one, page 8]
Yet, we are equally aware of ongoing concerns around brand presence in schools and other channels, such as social networking sites, which are intended for teen audiences but, nonetheless, attract younger users.
Under the pledge commitments, companies agree not market products in primary schools, except under very specific circumstances and for educational purposes. We know we need to be clearer about what kind of brand presence is justified and we are working on setting some ground rules in this space.
We know we can’t stand still. We know we must listen to the concerns of others. We know we must be consistent and replicate these commitments globally
. We’re making strides in the right direction but there is work to be done.
For more information, contact Will Gilroy (firstname.lastname@example.org) or for the full EU Pledge results, please visit http://www.eu-pledge.eu/content/annual-reports