The Ethical code for food product advertising targeting children

Starting June 2009 the Romanian Advertising Council (RAC) is the depositary for the Ethical code for food product advertising  targeting children. Therefore, intimations regarding problems handled by this code are in remit for RAC and ar reviewed by it.

Obesity and the severe health problems related to it are the negative side-effects of the advanced societies’ typical life style. Unfortunately, during the past years, this has also become a characteristic of children.
      
The European Commission has discussed the problem of lack of exercise and  physical activity in the Europeans’ life, through its Platform for Diet, Physical Exercise and Health: ”The citizens of the European Union exercise too little and eat too much: too much energy, too many calories, too much fat, sugar and salt. The main consequence is the acute, constant increase of overweight and obesity rates across the continent. This increase has become severe, especially with children and teenagers.”

With The Ethical Code for Food Products Advertising Targeting Children, we pledge to act firmly towards complying with certain general ethical rules regarding food ads addressed to children. These rules and regulations will be adopted voluntarily, on a national level, by all the parties involved in food promotions targeting children.

Product defines an object, service and /or facility that is owned or is of main interest to children.

Ads or commercials targeting children define communication addressed to children, by means of the selected theme, images and language.

Child means any boy or girl between 3 and 12 years of age.

Advertising addressed to children defines advertising materials broadcast during a program that has audience ratings of least 50% among the “under 12” age group.

Media support refers to the channel, the physical medium used for the message or information in order to leave the source and reach its destination. The Code is covering the following media supports: television, Internet and print media.

Brand is the name and/or symbol used with the intention of completely identifying it with the product or service of a company.

Permission marketing refers to a marketing technique that provides the operator with key information regarding consumer profile, depending on their choices.

In advertising:

* Advertisers will always communicate in the spirit of truth, and will avoid misleading their consumers.

* Advertising practices will only be implemented in compliance with the national and EU legislation, as well as with the decisions of the national and local authorities.

* Advertising and commercial practices will be implemented in compliance with the ethical values of society.

* Advertising and commercials will not affect human dignity in any way, by lowering or discrediting certain individuals or groups because of their social class, race, ethnical origin, religion, sex, age, physical or psychological features, personality.

* None of the advertising techniques to be used can take advantage from unfortunate events or situations that might occur in the life of any individual.

* Advertising will not resort to vulgarity, verbal violence, offensive and  impolite behavior in communication.

* Advertising will support appropriate sizing of product servings, and will discourage excessive consumption, including by correctly displaying the appropriate size of the product servings.

* Advertising will attempt to promote an active life style and a well-balanced diet; it will never encourage in any way a sedentary life style or any other behavior that does not comply with a well-balanced diet. 

* All statements referring to taste, composition, nutritional value or health benefits will strictly comply with reality, and their presentation will be made in compliance with the current legislation.

* Consumers have the right to confidentiality of their personal information, which requires for personal information collection and disclosing, as well as permission marketing  practices, to be performed in compliance with the national laws and regulations, as well as with the internal practice regulations.

* Advertising will only use those media channels that, by their features and values, shed a positive light on the promoted brand and product. Advertising will not use any promotional services of those media channels resorting to strategies that might exploit violence or sex, or encourage an offensive attitude towards others.
 
* Advertising and commercial practices for products manufactured by the signatories of this Code will be governed by compliance with the values of the present Ethical Code. However, the Code does not aim to replace any other internal regulations or codes with more restrictive provisions, binding the advertisers based on previous engagements.

Nowadays, children’s daily diet focuses on an excess of calories, saturated fat, hydrogenated fat, sugar and salt. Also, children do not have an appropriate intake of fruits, vegetables, cereals and vitamins. As a consequence, obesity has reached high rates and is further generating specific complications and health problems.

Nutritional choices made by parents and children depend on a number of factors. Studies have shown that one of these factors may be the advertising targeting children. These studies have pointed out that ads may attract children, influence their options and encourage them to further influence and convince their parents to buy them certain products.
      
The companies that sign this Code have pledged to responsibly advertise food and non-alcoholic beverages, in order to support parents’ efforts of promoting healthy life styles.

Therefore, these companies have agreed to adhere to these pledges in Romania, in compliance with the following minimum criteria:

* We will not target children under 12 with food ads, except for those food 
products that strictly comply with specific nutritional criteria, based on accepted scientific proofs and/or national and international nutritional guides. To this end, “Ads targeting children under 12” defines advertising broadcast during a program that has audience ratings of least 50% among the “under 12” age group.

* We will not communicate any products in primary schools, except for the case when the communication is specifically requested by, or mutually agreed with the school management, for educational purposes.

The organization appointed to be the depository of this Code – The Romanian Advertising Council (RAC) – will evaluate, upon request, by means of the Ethical Committees, any notifications signaling violations of this Code. The Organization decisions will be submitted to both the requesting party, and the company promoting the product, the latter having the obligation to take amending measures for any ads violating this Code.

Signatories of this agreement will post their pledges on a website (www.ro-pledge.ro) in November 2008. The pledges will include details on the specific nutritional criteria of each company, based on accepted scientific proofs and/or national and international nutritional guides.

- We will target children under 12 only through ads for products that are in full compliance with the specific nutritional criteria, based on accepted scientific proofs and / or valid national and international nutritional  guides, applicable for each and every company, in the form published by the said company on the website www.eu-pledge.eu

- We acknowledge that parents play the key role in relation to their children’s decisions, and this is the reason why we will not undermine their authority with our advertising practices. We will not encourage or influence children to impose their wishes and options in buying food or non-alcoholic beverages.

- We will not pledge to sponsor television or radio programs or shows for products that do not comply with the minimum nutritional criteria based on accepted scientific proofs and /or national and international nutritional guides, if they have audience ratings of 50% or more among the “under 12” age group.

- We will not post ads and /or promotions of products that do not comply with the minimum nutritional criteria based on accepted scientific proofs and /or national and international nutritional guides, on websites or blogs targeting children or user groups where more than 50% of the users are children under the age of 12.

- Famous characters and celebrities from television, movies, cartoons, sport, music and history will only be used in order to advertise products that comply with the minimum nutritional criteria based on accepted scientific proofs and /or national and international nutritional guides, whenever 50% or more of their targeted audience includes children under the age of 12.

- We will not communicate any products in primary schools, except for the case when the communication is specifically requested by, or mutually agreed with the school management, for educational purposes.

- There will be no advertising of products containing a fun or entertainment component, targeting children under 12, if these products do not comply with the minimum nutritional criteria based on accepted scientific proofs and /or national and international nutritional guides.

- We will not post ads targeting children under 12, promoting products that do not comply with the minimum nutritional criteria based on accepted scientific proofs and / or national and international nutritional guides, in any segments of the print media mainly targeting children under 12.

- We will implement direct promotional activities targeting children under 12 only in the presence of adults, and only for products that comply with the minimum nutritional criteria based on accepted scientific proofs and / or national and international nutritional guides.

- We will not make outdoor advertising at a distance lower than 50 meters from kindergartens and primary schools, targeting children under 12, if these products do not comply with the minimum nutritional criteria based on accepted scientific proofs and /or national and international nutritional guides.


Magor Csibi,
Vice President of the Environmental Commission of the European Parliament

Dan Vlaicu,
President of the National Authority for Consumer Protection