Many parents think that when it comes to television advertising aimed at children it’s like the “Wild West” where anything goes. In actuality, there are some very strict guidelines to follow with regard to marketing to kids in Canada. The first consideration is to classify what is meant by children’s advertising. These would be commercials that are packaged before, during or right after any type of children’s programming. In this case, “children” are defined as anyone under the age of 12.
The Canadian Association of Broadcasters established a Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children in 1971. The following are a list of the highlights of this code that the advertisements must adhere to. A commercial for children should:
· Use age-appropriate language that is accessible to the target audience.
· Refrain from any type of content that could inspire children to harm themselves such as wild stunts.
· Collect only the minimal amount of personal information for a contest that would allow a child to participate in that activity.
· Restrict the advertiser from dealing with anyone other than the parent or guardian of a child who wins a contest.
· Require that a child must get their parent or guardian’s permission before handing over any type of personal information.
· Refrain from using any of the personal information gathered in a contest to advertise products that aren’t age appropriate for children under 12.
· Refrain from collecting any date from the children about their family’s financial status.
· Keep third parties out of the equation when it comes to this personal information.
For the most part, companies are permitted to self regulate their advertising practices. However, when it comes to children’s advertising those ads must be submitted to the CAB for approval before going on the air. Even with those approvals, parents still retain the right to complain about a company’s advertising practices. These complaints would be submitted to the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. On the average the ASC receives about 1,200 complaints a year for general advertising but only received one complaint for a child-directed commercial. This is an indication that companies who do advertise for children take that role very seriously.
In terms of the actual presentation of a product, advertisers must adhere to certain factual considerations such as:
· Any representation of a product cannot exaggerate its function in terms of speed, color, durability etc.
· The size of the actual product needs to be established.
· The words “new” or “introducing” can only be used in context with that ad for up to a year.
Finally, marketing to children can’t involve direct pressure to purchase or use a product. They also can’t encourage kids to tell their parents to “Buy me this!” The general rule of thumb to apply would be what would you want your kids to see in a commercial?