ASA finds 'significant decline' in HFSS food ads seen by children

ASA: exposure to HFSS food ads fell during the decade
ASA: exposure to HFSS food ads fell during the decade

Exposure has fallen in 2018 as well as over the decade, while exposure to alcohol and gambling ads has also dropped during the decade.

There has been a "significant decline" last year in the volume of TV ads promoting foods high in fat, sugar or salt viewed by children, according to the Advertising Standards Authority.

The ASA, which has analysed the percentage of ads seen by children per week since 2008, said that in 2018 children saw an average of eight TV ads for HFSS foods last year, down from 9.6 per week in 2017 and 12.4 per week in 2016.

In the decade between 2008 and 2018, the watchdog said, children’s exposure to all TV ads for food and soft-drink brands – HFSS or otherwise – has halved from an average of 35.5 ads per week in 2008 to 17.8 ads per week in 2018. 

The number of alcohol and gambling ads seen by children has also decreased significantly over the decade – dropping 62.5% and 37.3% respectively between 2008 and 2017 [note: the ASA has cited figures from 2017 as opposed to 2018].

Children viewed 3.2 gambling ads – mostly for bingo, lotteries and scratchcards – each week in 2018, down from 4.4 per week in 2013. However, this is an increase on the 2.2 ads per week viewed in 2008 – the first year gambling and betting ads were permitted on TV.

Children are viewing less TV ads as a whole

Looking at children's exposure to TV ads as a whole, the ASA said they were viewing 38.1% less than in 2013 – from 229.3 ads per week in 2013 to a low of 141.9 ads in 2018.

"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," ASA chief executive Guy Parker said.

"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."

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