Children’s TV ads exposure halves in six years, watchdog says

The number of TV ads seen by children has halved in the past six years, with the watchdog saying it is “mindful” of the need to stay vigilant in policing internet adverts as young people increasingly move to online viewing.

Young people aged four to 15 saw an average of 115.9 ads per week last year, down from an average of almost 230 per week in 2013, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said.

A report by the watchdog suggested children’s exposure to TV alcohol ads over the same period has fallen by by two-thirds, and by just under half to TV gambling ads.

Alcohol ads made up 0.8% of all TV ads seen by children last year, a percentage the ASA said has remained below 1% since 2015.

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Just 0.8% of all TV ads seen by children last year were for alcohol (Philip Toscano/PA)

The majority of such ads seen by children were for beer, cider or perry (an alcoholic drink made from pears), followed by ads for spirits or liqueurs.

Last year, children saw a weekly average of 2.5 gambling ads on TV and the ASA said children’s exposure to gambling advertising on TV has remained at similar levels during the last six years.

Gambling ads made up 2.1% of all the TV ads that children saw, on average, in a week last year, down slightly from 2.2% in 2018.

Bingo, lottery and scratchcards make up the majority of gambling ads on TV  that children see, followed by ads for casinos, and then those for sports-related gambling, the ASA said.

It said while the conclusions in its latest report suggest the scheduling restrictions designed to reduce the exposure of under-18s to these kinds of ads are working, it will continue to look at advertising online.

It said: “The ASA is mindful of children’s shifting media consumption habits – likely to be driven by their increasing consumption of online media, such as on-demand and online video use, as well as social media engagement – and the need to remain vigilant in policing ads for age-restricted products in other media, in particular online.

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“In parallel the ASA has been harnessing new technology to proactively monitor children’s exposure to ads online and taking quick and effective action where it identifies any problems.”

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Our latest report shows that children’s exposure to TV ads for alcohol and gambling products remains low.

“We will continue our proactive monitoring to make sure this remains the case for TV ads as well as carrying out further monitoring online so that we limit children’s exposure to age-restricted ads wherever they appear.”

In April last year the ASA said it had used new monitoring technology to identify gambling ads that children see online and as a result had banned ads from five gambling operators which it found to be in breach of the rules.

John Timothy, chief executive of the Portman Group, which is the alcohol industry regulator and social responsibility body, said: “This important ASA report brings welcome news that children’s exposure to alcohol advertising continues to decline, highlighting the serious commitment of producers to marketing their products responsibly and only to adults.”

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