Children’s Food Campaign ‘living in Wonderland’, says ISBA

29 April 2013
ISBA criticises pressure group attack on ASA and industry regulation

ISBA has criticised the Children’s Food Campaign’s attack on the Advertising Standards Authority, claiming the authors of the ‘Through the Looking Glass’ report must be living in Wonderland. 

The CFC argues that the self-regulatory system governing how advertisers operate – in terms of non-broadcast advertising of products that are high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) – is failing, and advocates instead statutory regulation across TV and online spaces to protect under 16s.

Ian Twinn, ISBA’s Director of Public Affairs, said:

“Once again we have a PR campaign from an anti-food pressure group which is self-righteous in its belief that it speaks for public concerns. It doesn’t; most people rightly expect to have proactive and balanced support from ad rules to guide and protect children, but they do not want to be told by extremists what types of foods should be banned and that allowing their children sweets and snacks is fundamentally wrong. To believe that de-commercialisation of the internet is a coherent form of protecting children is to be out of touch to the point of living in Wonderland.”

ISBA believes that a line should be drawn between broadcast and non-broadcast advertising, the difference being that TV ads are essentially shown to passive audience groups and therefore require stricter rules than online web ads, which require viewers to make a conscious effort to find and log in to them.

On this front, ISBA recognises the importance of the Digital Adwise Parent Pack (produced by not-for-profit media literacy programme Media Smart) as a vital tool in supporting parents and guardians. It stands as an example of a responsible advertising industry giving parents an open resource which helps their children identify and understand the adverts and commercial material which they will inevitably encounter in the online world.

Twinn continued:

“We are confident that our rules are strict and appropriate and that the ASA is effective in policing online ads and keeping the rules under review if there is a need to change them. Indeed, it is a commitment of ISBA and the wider ad industry that we act swiftly if harm needs to be addressed.”

The CFC claims that self-regulation of the advertising industry is a failed model on a par with recent notable failures in the banking sector or that which governed MP’s expenses. A statement Twinn believes is risible:

“If the CFC wants to be taken seriously it really shouldn’t be making up nonsense that self-regulation of the advertising sector is a ‘failed model’.  In reality, self-regulation works well as an effective consumer focused complaints system – proven by its 99% industry compliance rate – which statutory regulation would do little to improve, if not even damage. People’s awareness of the ASA is high and the powers it has are not taken lightly by advertisers.”

Twinn concluded:

“Society needs to empower us all to eat responsibly, modify our diets to fit in with our lifestyles and this will not be achieved by hectoring and self-righteous lecturing.  We all need to work together with a long term and consistent set of messages... a PR campaign trotted out every six months does nothing to address the serious issue of childhood obesity.”



Notes for editors

ISBA is the voice of British advertisers.

The Media Smart Digital Adwise Parent Pack can be found here.

The Children’s Food Campaign ‘Through the Looking Glass’ report can be downloaded here

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