Irish advertising regulator introduces even stricter HFSS rules.
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) has announced new rules relating to the advertising of HFSS products which will be incorporated into the Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages Section of the ASAI Code from 1st December 2021. Amy Powell, Compliance Manager at PromoVeritas explains what the new changes will be.
The new rules will heavily restrict any marketing communications for products high in fat, salt or sugar that are directed or targeted at children under the age of 15 through either the selection of media or the context in which they appear (rule 8.19).
The CEO of the ASAI, Orla Twomey, has said “The implementation of these new rules in the ASAI Code are a significant and positive change designed to help and protect the wellbeing of children as well limit the overall exposure of HFSS advertising to the general public.”
In summary, the new rules state that:
- No advertising media can be used to advertise HFSS products if more than 50% of its audience is under 15 years of age (rule 8.20). Note: in the UK it is 25% and under 16’s.
- There are also going to be limits on the amount of advertising for HFSS products that can be published by each media format, so it is a maximum of 33% of available space for Posters and 25% of available space for cinema, digital & print media (rule 8.21). This would reduce the ‘amount’ of advertising that children see related to HFFS products.
- Nor can marketing communications targeted at children for HFSS products include a promotional offer or a competition (rule 8.24) except if it is on the brand’s own packaging, or at point of sale, or on labels, tickets, menus and similar. So no mainstream advertising.
- There are also restrictions on the use of licensed (i.e. cartoon) characters (rule 8.26). Marketing communications in non-broadcast media that are targeted at children should not include licensed characters or celebrities popular with children, again except if it is on the brand’s own packaging, or at point of sale, or on labels, tickets, menus and similar. So no mainstream advertising.
- It will be prohibited to run any form of marketing communication for HFSS products in locations primarily used by children. Examples include locations near nurseries, family and child clinics, paediatric services, schools, dedicated school transport, playgrounds and youth centres (rule 8.22).
- New rules also apply to sponsorship activities and use of licensed characters in promotional activity (rule 8.28 – 8.32). The new rules prohibit commercial sponsorship, and not just for HFSS products, of activities or events focussed on or likely to have particular appeal to children of primary school age.
But restrictions will not extend to corporate identities, trading names, or masterbrands, and existing sponsorship contracts and agreements which otherwise would be in breach of the code will be permitted to continue until they expire.
The new rules will be in addition to existing rules that already say that marketing communications should not denigrate a healthy lifestyle, or encourage unhealthy eating or drinking habits, and not encourage consumption to take advantage of a promotional offer.
Once they come into effect the ASAI will be working with media and advertisers to ensure the “successful rollout of the rules” by taking a very proactive and staged approach to their implementation. Any complaints received during the first six months will be added into their monitoring structure and be used as a form of intelligence gathering.
The PromoVeritas Point of View
These changes are just the latest in a move across Europe to tighten rules on marketing food to children and just last month the UK Government revealed new policies for 2023 that totally ban all online advertising for HFSS products and restrict TV advertising.
But marketers in Ireland should not give up all hope. Even the new rules do leave some marketing avenues for HFSS products. In fact, it is likely to see a move back to traditional on-pack offers – as this impactful media is exempt from the rules and can be used to run prize promotions, with or without a link to a licenced character or property.