Why were ads inappropriate for children were served on YouTube?

News - Jun 18, 2019

A widespread debate emerged on SoMe after a parent described how his 3-year old son was watching his favourite cartoon on a tablet and, in the middle of an episode on YouTube, an ad for a popular fast food brand “jumped out” on the screen. Naturally, the child immediately wished to eat there, since parents rarely allowed him to do so – it’s impossible to completely ban that “pleasure” for children and yet, it’s not healthy and should be avoided.

A survey of the Advertising Standards Authority-ASA has shown that brands engaged in production and sales of fast and unhealthy food – particularly food rich with fat, sugar or salt, are served on YouTube mainly as sponsored posts on channels for children, although there are no indications that those companies are intentionally targeting the population under 16.

The survey was conducted before Christmas in 2018. The two-week monitoring established deviations from the regulations defined by the ASA.

It was discovered that as much as 2.3% out of 41,030 ads served to children contained products with high rates of fat, sugar or salt.

Companies producing junk food are banned from targeting the population under 16 on SoMe. The above survey has found that a large number of brands generally comply with the online advertising rules. For instance, retail outlets even don’t target children for their ads because they are aware that such content does not interest them and that children will not visit stores on their own.

Almost no junk food brand intentionally and directly targeted those under 16. The rest of the inappropriate content was immediately removed from YouTube.

The ad industry has welcomed this test, highlighting that there is no evidence that brands purposefully aim to target children and that they will learn from issues related to SoMe targeting.

– Against the backdrop of junk food ads being “high on the political agenda”, it is important to note that the ASA research didn’t find evidence of brands were not acting in compliance with the rules – said James Barge, public policy director from the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (Isba).

– We support the ASA in seeking to strengthen their regulation of online advertising and would urge them to further understand the measures and exclusions responsible advertisers have in place.

The online advertising market is definitely still new and has many more millage to cover over time before marketing wizards and leading advertising experts draw specific conclusions. Everything is very variable and adjustable, depending on a case.


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