New measures tighten rules around advertising to children

Image reproduced from parent with thanks

The International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA) has today announced four enhanced commitments on health and wellness, one of which focuses on responsible marketing and advertising to children.

The Alliance, which comprises some of the world's largest food and beverage companies including Nestlé, Kellogg's, McDonald's, Mars, Unilever and Pepsico, is extending its current policy to ensure that marketing communications for products that do not meet nutrition criteria are not designed to appeal primarily to children under twelve.

The policy will now apply to all media, including SMS and mobile marketing, interactive games and product placement, having previously only applied to television, print and online.

Getting kids' communication right

Today's children and young people are growing up in an increasingly commercialised world and exposure to promotional messages is an integral part of their development.

In order to help PR practitioners navigate the challenges that come with marketing to under 18s, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has produced a best practice guide for communicating with children. Covering legal requirements, best practice and the application of the code of conduct, it also sets out a series of principles including:

  • the need to take into account the age, maturity level and gender of the children so appropriate language and communication tools can be used
  • the requirement to engage with children, parents and carers during the design and delivery of campaigns, taking on and responding to feedback
  • never encouraging children to desire things they cannot afford or would not be able to use
  • supporting any claims with clear proof and / or reasonable rationale.
Also included is guidance on the food and drinks industry, online communications, in schools communications and handling difficult issues, with case studies.  If you're involved with any campaigns aimed at under 18s, please do source a copy.

Blend innovation with appraisal and act decisively - Richard Eyre's top tips for success

Richard Eyres Richard Eyre has had a remarkable career in advertising, moving latterly into non-executive director roles with media and tech companies.

Having been at the cutting edge of the media industry for nearly forty years, I was interested to hear what his top ten tips to success would be - and like me, you might find some of them pleasantly surprising.

Here's my take on what he had to say:

1) Learn to hear in a different way. For example listen out for what people are not saying and try to figure out other people's agendas. Sometimes personal ambitions can get in the way of the business task and you need to know when that's potentially the case with those you're dealing with.

2) Appraise what you hear and make your own mind up about it. Don't just adopt others' viewpoints.

Don't rush into a decision

3) Allow time for new ideas to infuse. Not every decision has to be taken on the spur of the moment and often the results are better if they aren't. Expose yourself to new thinking and understand what is going on in the world around you. For example, for those in digital, tech and the media, blogs like Mashable and TechCrunch are invaluable to gaining new insights.

4) Don't be afraid to copy. At school it may be called cheating but in industry it's called benchmarking. If you see a style you like, try it on for size and then evolve it so it's your own.

5) Take risks and step out of your comfort zone from time to time. The product of some risks is that you may occasionally fail but that's ok. Don't let your fears be stronger than your dreams because that will only lead to regret.

Work out what is holding you back

6) Identify what it is that is restraining you. Reframe failure to see it as the Americans do - something you learn your greatest lessons from. Don't be put off by others and confuse self-confidence with talent. There is no direct correlation between assertiveness, self assurance and conviction, and the best understanding of the situation.

7) Know what your own success looks like. Stop and think so you're not just following a trajectory - it's not all about the money but what makes you happy. However, whatever your version of success looks like, it will cost you. You'll have to fight for it and make difficult choices; this is why you will be more fulfilled in the end. If your family unit is important to you, stay strong and put it first. Too many people in the business community do not respect it as they should so it will be hard.

8)  Work out what your own brand characteristics are. Choose four words that you'd like people to use about you and then ask yourself what you have to do to get people to describe you in that way. Carry out an annual review - new ambitions and new words may be needed as time goes on.

Don't let money, fame and power cloud your judgement

9) Money, fame and power are consequences of success but they are not a destination. They are not satisfaction creators so don't let them define you.

10) The media business is in chaos and with chaos comes opportunity. Those who win when the rule book has been torn up are the inspired, the fast movers and the free thinkers. Blend innovation with appraisal and act decisively.

11) Always give people more than they were expecting but don't broadcast it - your work will hold much more worth. This is a powerful technique and will differentiate you from the rest, even if at times sometimes your efforts go unnoticed. This approach will stand you in very good stead.

Richard's tips are refreshingly honest and are gained from his extensive experience over the years. We found them beneficial - hope you did too. Why not share your top tips if you have any, we'd love to hear them.

When online advertising goes badly wrong

Maria, the little girl found in Greece You're having a quick nose on Twitter or reading your favourite paper online and your attention is captured by a news report on a missing child. It's a story that has already captured international attention and which you feel very strongly about. There's a link to a video with all the latest info and a request for help so you click the link, bracing yourself for the difficult and upsetting content, ready to do your bit.

But the link doesn't immediately click through to the report and instead leads to a thirty second advert that you're supposed to sit through first. It's for Schwartz and the ad is full of helpful suggestions for what to cook for that night's dinner. Only then do you view the news item, which is as distressing as you expected.

Which one leaves more of the bad taste in your mouth - the news story or the advert?

This is exactly the experience I had last night when following up a story about Maria, the little girl found just this week in Greece.

Being in the PR & marketing business I have a better understanding than many of how media buying and placement works but I was really interested in my own reaction.

Firstly I felt disbelief that there was an advert at all, then sheer anger and revulsion at the brand which thought it appropriate to be there. Not quite sure any advert would have been appropriate in this situation but as I was feeling a bit sick about another little girl having been separated from her parents, in a week during which Madeleine McCann has once again been headline news, I sure as hell wasn't thinking about food.

I wanted to see whether my reaction was an average one so (admittedly not a scientific test) I turned to Facebook to see what my friends thought. Aside from 2 people who weren't that bothered, the majority were firmly in my camp.

So, a fail for the advertiser and reputational damage for Schwartz. Not the kind of return on investment you want from advertising spend.

It's at this point I took a step back. I wanted to unpick how Schwartz might have found itself in this situation and it's not as straight forward as you think (despite that being how it outwardly looks to the consumer). There are processes in place that the advertiser is at the mercy of and the brand may place faith in others to ensure media placement is appropriate. So does the responsibility lie with the company, the media buying agency used (who could blame the random nature of the type of online advert booked) or the network who sets advertising revenue above safeguards around sensitive content.

I turned to media buying expert Clare Lee, who is an account director at Steve Davidson Advertising to find out more.

Clare said: “Digital advertising is an ever shifting and developing medium. Many clients, and even some advertising agencies, struggle to keep up with multiple targeting methods, site types and measurement tools. Gone are the days you simply bought a banner for a month on a website you think your target market are visiting.

“Often big brands will allocate a budget, specify a target market and then allow a specialist digital agency to buy a blind network campaign based on behavioural and contextual targeting. This can be great as you know that no matter where your target market are browsing online your advert will be seen by them. This is also bought at a much lower cost per thousand impressions, often at up to 80% cheaper than buying advertising space on the sites directly. However the brand will not be aware exactly where their adverts will be placed.

“This is worrying. If you use a reputable agency they will guarantee that your advert will appear only on the Comscore top 500 sites and that your advert won't be played on gambling or porn sites, but I guess the question is - does that go far enough?

“The preroll video content played before you can watch a news story you have clicked on are mainly bought in this way, so the brands themselves are unlikely to know their advert has been played before a highly upsetting/contentious news clip. I think this is where the news media owners themselves have to step up and take more responsibility. They are under ever increasing pressure to increase digital revenue as the printed press are haemorrhaging readership and advertisers. Many are in the process of weighing up the option of charging subscriptions to view online content, which is a risky strategy. If you can get your news for free elsewhere why would you pay for it? This means they have to commercialize as much of their site as possible through advertising, sponsorships and paid for content (ie advertorials).

“Advertising is all about timing, reaching the right audience at the right time for them to hear/see your message. This can be executed beautifully, like the Vanish stain removal TV ad in the first break of Channel Four’s Equinox interview in which Jon Snow quizzed Monica Lewinsky about her infamously stained dress. But it can also go very badly wrong.

“My belief is that certain news content should not have any preroll adverts played before it. It's not hard to see which stories should fall into this category, anything to do with murder, assault, missing children etc. The media need to self regulate what they deem to be appropriate, but brands, advertisers and agencies need to demand that their campaigns are not placed in such potentially damaging and upsetting contexts.”

Clare outlines really concisely the issues facing brands today and I have to say I agree with her with regards to certain content not being prefaced by adverts. It will be interesting to see how this plays out but it may take a big brand to be badly burned in reputational terms before either advertisers or news media owners start to treat this with the focus and attention the matter deserves.