Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The impact of advertising on children - UK government asks for views

The UK Government is consulting on advertising and promotion to children. You can easily give your views through an on-line process that just takes a few minutes. Adults and children can participate. See:
DfES page (parents)
DfEs page (children and young people)

The deadline is 13 July.

The Government is under pressure from campaigners to prohibit the advertising of foods to children and has gone some way along this path. Baby Milk Action support the Children's Food Campaign, run by Sustain. See:

Although in the survey there seems to be a focus on television and magazine advertising aimed at children, companies such as Nestlé have found other ways to promote confectionary and cereals (which are often high in salt and sugar) to children.

For example, Nestlé attempts to co-opt teachers into promoting cereal through its 'box tops for education' scheme. If children bring in the tops of Nestlé cereals the school receives some money. Many schools have refused to take part, some writing to all parents explaining why, because of support for the boycott over the company's marketing of baby foods as well as on health grounds. We have a campaign pack if you or your children are targeted in this way. See:

A new initiative from Nestlé targeting children, is its 'Go free' campaign. Again this promotes confectionary and cereals.

Such initiative are not only about boosting sales of these products, they are also aimed at undermining the boycott and trying to improve Nestlé's appalling image. When Nestlé was told by the UK Advertising Standards Authority not to repeat the untrue claim that it markets infant formula 'ethically and responsibly', made in an anti-boycott advertisement, a Public Relations expert suggested that Nestlé should try to store up a 'reservoir of good will' by putting money into initiatives aimed at children. See:

Baby Milk Action is also concerned about the impact of advertising and promotion of formula. In the UK television advertisements suggest that formula protects against infection, for example. Children as much as adults have a right to accurate and independent information on infant feeding. The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly aim to ensure that commercial promotion is stopped and limits companies to providing scientific and factual information to health workers. Following action by a Baby Milk Action supporter (and now director), Julie Dyball, the Department of Education and Skills agreed to introduce the Code and Resolutions as an item in the curriculum, so at least children are aware of its existance (it would be good to hear from children if this is working). See:

We have produced an education pack with resources for teachers on unpacking public relations. The pack, which can be purchased or accessed on line, has exercises using materials produced by companies and campaign organisations to understand the reasons why messages are presented as they are. It is called 'Seeing through the Spin'. See:

So there is a lot that can be done to ensure that children are not subject to inappropriate commercial messages. To give your views on what you would like to see the UK government doing, see:
DfES page (parents)
DfEs page (children and young people)

The deadline is 13 July.

Personally I rather like chocolate and am not against eating it. But as with baby milk, calling for appropriate marketing is not the same as saying a product should not be sold.

1 comment:

rob a said...

Here's what I put in my conclusion:

Children and parents need protection from the multi-million pound marketing industries that have endless means of pushing products and services at children and parents.
This is especially the case where the products have the potential to establish habits which will be harmful to the individual in the long term. For example, pushing unhealthy high-salt, high-sugar cereals at children in an attempt to get their brand loyalty. Nestlé is seen to do this, using its token-collecting scheme where schools do the promotional work for it.
Legal restrictions are necessary to curb such activities for the benefit of children, their parents and for society as a whole. Children have plenty of time to be under commercial pressures when they are adults. The state should protect them while they remain children.