Advertising Marketing

What regulation is in place for advertising in the UK?

There are two advertising codes in use in the UK (one for broadcast advertising, one for non-broadcast advertising). Both codes include general rules that state advertising must be responsible, must not mislead, or offend and specific rules that cover advertising to children.

The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) applies to the content and scheduling of television and radio advertisements. It also covers programme sponsorship credits on radio and television services but complaints about these are handled by Ofcom. There are specific TV scheduling rules that apply to food and soft drink – (i.e. only food and drink that are not high in fat, salt and sugars are allowed to be advertised in and around programs of appeal to children). These foods are defined by the Food Standards Agency (see The nutrient profiling model - Publications - GOV.UK).

The UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code) applies to advertisements across media including newspapers, magazines, billboards, posters, leaflets, mailings, e-mails, texts and on UK based company websites.

Both codes include general rules that state advertising must be responsible, must not mislead, or offend and specific rules that cover advertising to children.

Aligning CAP and BCAP Codes to restrict HFSS Adverting to Children

In December 2016, the Committee on Advertising Practice announced new rules aligning the CAP and BCAP codes. Specifically, the new rules ban the advertising of foods high in fat, salt or sugar in media targeted at under 16s. The rules will apply across all non-broadcast media, including in print, cinema and online (including social media and advergames). A regulatory statement and associated annexes are available on the CAP website.

The rules will come into effect on 1 July 2017. In summary:

  • Ads that directly or indirectly promote an HFSS product cannot appear in children's media
  • Ads for HFSS products cannot appear in other media where children make up over 25% of the audience.
  • Ads for HFSS products will not be allowed to use promotions, licensed characters and celebrities popular with children; instead, advertisers may now use those techniques to better promote healthier options.
  • The Ofcom / Department of Health nutrient profiling model will be used to classify which products are HFSS.

On brand advertising, CAP has published new joint guidance with the Broadcast Committee on Advertising Practice. The guidance builds on that originally developed by BCAP and addresses the fact that HFSS products might also be promoted indirectly through branding synonymous with a HFSS product.

Who is the regulatory body for advertising in the UK?

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK independent regulator for advertising across all media. ASA responds to complaints and proactively checks the media to take action against misleading, harmful or offensive advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing. If ASA judges an advert to be in breach of the Codes, it must be withdrawn or amended and the advertiser must not use the approach again. Further information is available at ASA: About Regulation

Industry Best Practice

UK advertising codes are amongst the strictest in the world and compliance is high. However, many companies go further than the provisions set out in the codes.

FDF has developed a summary of voluntary activity which sets out wider activities some companies are currently undertaking.

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