The Committee of Advertising Practice has published guidance on enhanced recognition of advertising requirements when marketing to the under 12s online.

What’s the issue?

Under the UK Code of Advertising (CAP Code), marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such. Communications or adverts which do not adequately make clear their commercial intent, either by their context or by actively bringing it to the attention of consumers, are likely to breach the CAP Code.

What constitutes “adequate” and “obvious” will depend not only on the nature of the communication but also on the audience to which it is directed. More effort is required where children or other vulnerable persons are targeted.

What’s the development?

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has published guidance on meeting enhanced disclosure requirements when marketing online to children under 12. The guidance applies to marketing communications which meet all three of the following criteria:

  • directed at under 12s;
  • highly immersive or significantly integrated into the surrounding editorial content; and
  • unlikely to be identified clearly from the context in which it appears.

The guidance complements other CAP guidance on recognition of advertisements and states that enhanced disclosures must be:

  • prominent – within or directly next to the marketing communication and of significant size and colour to make it stand out;
  • interruptive – readily apparent to the child, ideally before engagement with the communication but, where space or time is limited, as the communication is activated;
  • sufficient to identify the marketer and the commercial intent – the marketer should be identified if not already apparent and commercial intent should be adequately indicated. CAP considers that common and recognisable branding should be sufficient to identify the marketer but less clear terms like “in association with” or “sponsored by” are highly unlikely to be sufficient in relation to younger children.

What does this mean for you?

This guidance applies primarily to marketing communications directed at under 12s appearing in third party space but is also relevant to media owners providing ad-funded content for that age group.

CAP considers that media owners exert considerable control over how advertising is presented in online environments, for instance on children’s activity and gaming websites, so they can take steps to ensure marketing communications are identifiable even if the ultimate responsibility rests with the marketer. It is suggested they can provide appropriate spatial or visual separation or take steps to explain to the audience that they will encounter marketing communications.

First-party content is unlikely to be within the scope of the guidance as the user journey is usually sufficiently clear, however, highly immersive or highly integrated into the surrounding content which is likely to be accessed directly (for example, via a microsite) may be subject to enhanced recognition requirements.