Children’s exposure to TV ads for alcohol and gambling stabilises

Children’s exposure to television ads for alcohol and gambling has broadly stabilised while the number of junk food ads they see has significantly declined since 2016, according to new figures.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said its latest figures for 2018 showed children’s “consistently low” exposure to alcohol and gambling ads remained at broadly the same levels following a decline since 2013.

The number of TV gambling ads seen by children has fallen to 3.2 per week in 2018 from a peak of 4.4 in 2013, making up 2.2% of all the broadcast ads children saw last year.

Rates are higher than in 2008 (2.2 per week), which was the first full year in which ads for gaming and betting were allowed on TV.

The majority of the TV gambling ads seen by children since 2011 are for bingo, lotteries and scratchcards.

Children saw an average of one gambling ad on TV for every five seen by adults in 2018, according to the report.

Advertising rules limit children’s exposure through a ban on gambling ads in and around children’s programmes and programmes of particular appeal to under-18s.

The number of alcohol ads seen by children remains at a similar level to the past three years – 1.1 ads per week in 2018.

Meanwhile, children saw eight ads for foods high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) a week last year, falling from 12.4 in 2016, the ASA said.

The figures mean children now see fewer ads for junk food than they do for non-HFSS products.

Between 2008 and 2018, children’s exposure to all TV ads for food and soft drink halved, from an average of 35.5 per week in 2008 to 17.8 in 2018.

Children’s exposure to all TV ads decreased from a peak of 229.3 ads per week in 2013 to a low of 141.9 ads last year, a fall of 38.1%.

Their total TV ad exposure relative to adults has fallen from a peak of 63.9% in 2008 to 40.5% in 2018, meaning children saw on average two ads for every five seen by adults during 2018.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Our priority is to ensure children are protected and we’re pleased that there’s a clear reduction in children’s exposure to TV ads for HFSS products and consistently low alcohol ad exposure levels.

“We’ve also policed the rules online through our proactive monitoring work, which uses technology to find out which ads children are seeing, followed by swift action against online advertisers who have broken the rules.”