The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) has published a new round of figures showing rates of children’s exposure to age-restricted TV ads, namely, ads for alcohol, gambling and food and soft drink products which are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS products).
The report follows figures covering 2008-2017, which showed a decline, since 2013, in children’s exposure to TV ads for alcohol and gambling. Today’s figures, covering 2018, show children’s exposure to those ads remaining at broadly the same levels, with their exposure to HFSS ads on TV showing a significant decline since 2016.
Children saw 12.4 ads for HFSS products per week in 2016, falling to 8 in 2018; children now see fewer TV ads for HFSS products than they do for non-HFSS ads. Between 2008 and 2018, children’s exposure to all TV ads for food and soft drink halved, from an average of 35.5 ads per week in 2008 to 17.8 ads per week in 2018.
The number of gambling ads seen by children on TV has fallen to 3.2 per week in 2018 from the peak of 4.4 in 2013, making up 2.2% of all the TV ads children saw last year. Rates are higher than in 2008 (2.2 per week), which is the first full year in which ads for gaming and betting were allowed on TV.
The majority of the TV gambling ads seen by children since 2011 are for bingo, lotteries and scratchcards. Children’s exposure to gambling ads, relative to adults’, has fallen year-on-year from 38.6% in 2008 to 20.4% in 2018. Children saw an average of one gambling ad on TV for every five seen by adults in 2018.
The advertising rules limit children’s exposure through the ban on gambling ads in and around children’s programmes and programmes of particular appeal to under-18s. The scheduling rules for gambling advertising have not changed over the years covered by the report, so other factors, mainly children’s changing media habits (watching TV less and going online more), have contributed to the reduction in children’s exposure to these ads.
The number of alcohol ads seen by children remains at a similar level to the past three years – 1.1 ad per week in 2018.
Children’s exposure to all TV ads decreased by 38.1%, from a peak of 229.3 ads per week in 2013, to a low of 141.9 ads in 2018. Children’s total TV ad exposure, relative to adults’, has fallen from a peak of 63.9% in 2008 to 40.5% in 2018. That means children see, on average, two ads for every five ads seen by adults during 2018.
Even taking into account children’s reduced exposure to TV ads in general – caused by viewing habits shifting from TV to online – exposure to ads for alcohol and HFSS products have fallen disproportionately further.
ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker said: “Our priority is to ensure children are protected and we’re pleased that there’s a clear reduction in children’s exposure to TV ads for HFSS products and consistently low alcohol ad exposure levels. We’ve also policed the rules online through our proactive monitoring work, which uses technology to find out which ads children are seeing, followed by swift action against online advertisers who have broken the rules.”