The Advertising Standards Association has urged adult-content advertisers to adopt better audience and media targeting capabilities to reduce children’s exposure to age-restricted advertisements.
The plea, which is directed at alcohol, gambling, and high fat, salt, or sugar advertisers, comes after the ASA’s latest “monitoring sweep” of online advertising platforms, which focused its monitoring on high-volume “mixed-age online platforms” such as YouTube, which attract a large proportion of non-logged users.
The ASA’s sweep examined the distribution of “dynamically served adverts” of alcohol, gambling, and HFSS content served across mixed-age platforms using six age-configured “Avatars.”
According to the ASA: “The Avatars are constructed to reflect the online browsing profile of these age groups, but their automated actions – visiting 250 web pages on both desktop and mobile devices, twice a day – are obviously not indicative of real-world online behaviours.”
Adult advertisers are not authorised to offer age-restricted advertising in children’s media (sites commissioned for children or where children account for 25 percent or more of the audience), but they are allowed in mixed-age media with a 75 percent adult audience.
According to the ASA, advertisers’ “underlying technology” should allow for target subgroups to be created on platforms’ audiences based on age, location, and browsing preferences.
Over a three-week monitoring period, ASA discovered that its six age-categorised Avatars received 27,395 advertising, which were published on 250 sites. Gambling advertising were served in similar amounts to kid and adult avatars, with no substantial skew toward adult profiles, according to the findings.
Dynamically served age-restricted ads
ASA chief executive, Guy Parker said: “We call on advertisers to make better use of targeting tools to minimise children’s exposure to dynamically served age-restricted ads.
“And we call on third parties involved in the distribution of these ads to ensure the data and modelling on which those tools rely are as effective as they can be.
“Finally, we will be exploring whether the report should lead to more prescriptive measures relating to dynamically-served age-restricted ads.
“This latest monitoring sweep is just one part of a wider set of initiatives where we’re harnessing technology, all with the aim of ensuring children are protected online.”
Meanwhile, on mixed-age digital platforms, the ‘neutral Avatar’ (which has no browsing history to provide indicative age information) was served significantly less gambling adverts.
According to the ASA, the high figures recorded by the avatars “do not reflect a real-world exposure to advertising,” but the findings have prompted a demand for advertisers to make greater use of targeted technology at their disposal.
This announcement comes a month after the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) dismissed a complaint against Ladbrokes, claiming that a reference to the film The Goonies was likely to appeal to anyone under the age of 18.