Debate Rages over Accusation by Charity of Online Ads Causing Child Obesity

Contention is brewing over an attack on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for not doing enough to protect children against online marketing.

The Children's Food Campaign charity has produced a report called 'Through the Looking Glass', which accuses the ASA of being "unwilling" and "unable" to regulate brands targeting children online.

They claim ASA's approach of advertising self-regulation has proven to be a "failed model", with laws introduced two years ago to cover websites and social media not keeping up with digital reality. The charity also blames the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) as the "root" of the issue for failing to advise advertisers on how to meet regulations.

Furthermore, the lobby group is urging ministers to implement tougher statutory regulations to clamp down on food companies who they say are exploiting loop holes to continue advertising junk food to children online.

In response to this, the advertising industry has branded the campaigners as "self-righteous" for these accusations. The advertising trade body ISBA has said that the lobby group is "living in Wonderland", dismissing the accusations as "nonsense" and defending the ASA as effective in policing its "strict and appropriate" rules.

Director of Public Affairs for ISBA, Ian Twinn, commented: "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."

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