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Regulatory statement: CAP announces guidance on use of children as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing

20 December 2012

The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has now completed and published its year-long review into the use of children as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing.

After careful consideration and taking into account new industry best practice on brand ambassador and peer-to-peer marketing involving children (the industry Pledge), CAP considers it necessary and proportionate to publish new guidance for marketers in the first quarter of 2013 to ensure the responsible use of such techniques.

The Guidance will make clear that brand ambassador or peer-to-peer marketing activity falling within the scope of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP Code) continues to be subject to it and, drawing upon existing CAP Code rules, will clarify that it must:

  • Be obviously identifiable as marketing activity; and will give examples on how that can be achieved; 
  • Do nothing that is likely to result in the physical, mental or moral harm of children; 
  • Not make children feel inferior or unpopular if they do not have a product or do not engage in peer-to-peer marketing and confirm that all rules in CAP’s dedicated Children’s section apply; and 
  • Be prepared with a sense of social responsibility.

For communications or practices that fall outside the scope of the CAP Code, marketers are encouraged to seek parental consent before engaging a child in the role of a brand ambassador.

The CAP Code is administered by the Advertising Standards Authority and marketers are reminded that they can seek pre-publication advice on their marketing communications by contacting the CAP Copy Advice team at www.cap.org.uk/Advice.aspx.

During its review CAP invited relevant academics and stakeholders to submit research about brand ambassador and peer-to-peer marketing techniques in order to understand their potential impact on children and their peers, particularly in the online environment. CAP also considered how brand ambassador and peer-to-peer marketing techniques sit within the existing legal and regulatory framework, the effect of the industry Pledge not to engage children as brand ambassadors, and the extent to which they are subject to the existing protections afforded to children in the CAP Code, including that advertisements must be clearly identifiable as such and not encourage children to pester their parents. This is in addition to the range of rules that prevent advertising from being misleading, harmful or offensive.

CAP found that the use of under-16s as brand ambassadors is limited. Examples that were identified occurred before the industry best practice was developed, commonly required parental consent and included use by Government organisations and charities. Marketing techniques where there was a reward or incentive for a child to engage with the marketer, or “incentivised peer-to-peer marketing,” were found to be more prevalent.

However, CAP was presented with research, expert opinion and case studies that suggested these practices could be carried out responsibly. After careful and thorough assessment of the marketing techniques presently being employed CAP was assured that existing regulatory constraints, supplemented by new guidance for advertisers on how best to comply with those constraints, would act to prevent irresponsible practices and address the reasonable concerns expressed by parents during the Bailey Review.

CAP’s review of the use of children as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing is available in full here (PDF).

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