Background and Context:
Despite growing evidence and impetus from the WHO in relation to the need for governments to protect children from unhealthy food and beverage advertising, Australia retains a self-regulatory system whereby rules around advertising are governed almost exclusively by the food industry itself. The self-regulatory system continues to evolve, as do techniques and platforms to target children and adolescents. Changes to the codes in 2014 have purportedly sought to address these changes in the advertising landscape with increasing uptake of technology such as Apps, advergames and websites.
A series of ten complaints in ten months, bridging 2014 changes to the industry self-regulatory codes and addressing a range of integrated marketing campaigns covering websites, Apps and free to air TV explored the current operation of self-regulation in Australia.
This paper explores the changing face of self-regulation of food advertising in Australia by considering a snapshot of advertising in 2014 through the lens of complaints brought to the Advertising Standards Board. It is argued that the outcomes of these complaints show that industry self-regulation is becoming less protective of children over time rather than more so, particularly in the context of changing advertising landscapes where online, social media and App-based ads appear increasingly prevalent.
It is argued that the experience of the self-regulatory complaints system in 2014 shows that self-regulation as the dominant form of controlling advertising to children is inadequate, particularly in the context of increasingly popular new advertising techniques and technologies.
Outcomes/What was learned:
The findings add to the impetus for the Australian government to take steps to implement the WHO Set of Recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children 2010, including through the introduction of strengthened provisions, independent oversight, enforcement and monitoring.