The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) has been conducting research on age-restricted adverts being shown to children and published its findings this week. It looked specifically at children’s digital media where age-restricted ads were being shown from a range of industries including gambling, weight loss products, tobacco and e-cigarettes.

Why Are these Rules Being Breached?

This research from the ASA is a year-long project with the aim of screening and identifying online advertising related to age-restricted products, and helping to prevent this from happening in the future.

The issue here lies not with these industries, but instead with the advertising tools that distribute the adverts. When an industry is selling products that are age-restricted, under the Advertising Code, they must target these ads so that they are not shown to younger audiences. Another industry that the ASA are focusing closely on the junk food industry as many of these products are targeted to children but are high in salt, sugar or fat.

The ASA looked at 50 websites and Youtube channels that are popular with children and tracked what ads were being shown. They found that there were 159 breaches of advertising guidelines on age-restricted products. This was across a massive 34 websites and 5 Youtube channels.

In relation to gambling, there were 4 gambling operators appearing across 8 different websites that were highlighted for 70 betting ads which breached advertising rules. This was of concern to the ASA as it was the highest of all industries, with alcohol coming in at 10 adverts.

What Did the ASA Have to Say?

The chief executive of the ASA, Guy Parker, said that they were proactively monitoring online ads and wanted to build a culture of zero tolerance for age-restricted ads appearing at places online where it is predominantly children viewing them. These monitoring sweeps will be exercised quarterly.

What Did the Betting and Gaming Council Have to Say?

The Betting and Gaming Council stated that they were committed to improving advertising safeguards in their new action plan and that they wanted to work with these advertising bodies and media partners in creating adtech solutions that would stop children from seeing online gambling ads.

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