ASAI unveils new rules on HFSS ads

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI), the independent self-regulatory body which aims to promote the highest standards of marketing communications, has unveiled new rules relating to the advertising of high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products which will be incorporated into the food and non-alcoholic beverages section of the authority’s code.

The new rules will restrict marketing communications for HFSS foods and beverages from being targeted at children under 15 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. The rules are in response to changing media habits among young people, as well as wider concerns in society about public health challenges for this age group.

Thresholds for non-broadcast media will reduce the overall exposure to HFSS product marketing communications. In summary, the new rules state that:

  • No medium can be used to advertise HFSS products if over half of its audience is under 15.
  • There are also thresholds on the amount of advertising for HFSS products that can be published by each media format. For example, no more than a third of available outdoor space can carry HFSS product marketing communications, while for cinema, digital and print media, the limit is a quarter of the available space.
  • Marketing communications targeted at children for HFSS products cannot include a promotional offer or a competition. There are also restrictions on the use of licensed character.
  • Locations primarily used by children will be prohibited to run any form of marketing communication for HFSS foods. Examples of such settings include registered crèches, pre-schools, nurseries, family and child clinics, paediatric services, schools, dedicated school transport, playgrounds and youth centres.

The rules will be in addition to existing rules, such as marketing communications should not denigrate a healthy lifestyle, nor should ads and other commercial messaging encourage unhealthy eating or drinking habits, or encourage consumption to take advantage of a promotional offer. The new restrictions will come into effect at the start of December 2021.

ASAI will work with media and advertisers to ensure the successful rollout of the rules, by taking a staggered approach to their implementation. They will be proactively monitoring this area and, for the first six months after the effective date, will add any complaints that may be received into their monitoring structure, using them as a form of intelligence gathering.

The code covers marketing communications and sales promotions across digital, social, mobile, in-game ads, influencer marketing (user-generated commercial content), press, out of home, radio, TV, leaflets/brochures, SMS/MMS, cinema and direct marketing. ASAI is developing a presentation on the rules and will have supports for advertisers and media.

An explanatory video by ASAI chief executive Orla Twomey (pictured) is here.





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