7 rules that need to be obeyed – WAU

Children’s Advertising is the dissemination of products and services focused on children. Because of this public’s vulnerability, it is characterized as abusive.

In advertising and marketing, we know that we have to speak the language of the target audience and know how to attract them in a certain way. But that’s not how it works when we are talking about children and children’s advertising.

At subtleties of the public and the restrictions on advertising, made by the regulatory agencies for this type of market, make the dissemination of products a little more restricted, but not impossible.

In this case, it is not enough to just promote the products to the target audience, it is necessary to Act in order to contribute to his growth and education.

In this article, we will cover what exactly child advertising is and how to characterize abuse in this very delicate and interesting market. You will find the following topics:

Continue reading our article to learn more!

What is a child

Before even explaining what is child advertising, its effects and its particularities, we need to conceptualize something important to better understand this market.

According to the Child and Adolescent Statute (ECA), an individual is considered a child when he is under 12 years old. After that, he is considered a teenager, until he is 18 years old.

Therefore, advertising for children is aimed at the target audience of up to 12 years of age.

What is child advertising

Children’s advertising is any disclosure product or service aimed at children, in order to sell to them.

Although those who actually buy the product or service are the parents or guardians, in the past the focus of communication was the child, the real consumer, with the parents remaining only as decision makers.

Realize that there is a difference between having products for children and advertising to children about products that are for them.

It is possible to make a communication aimed at the parents feel the need to buy a particular product or service for your children and that characterizes children’s advertising.

How abusive child advertising is characterized

Taking into account the fragility of the target audience, that is, that children are easier to be persuaded, the problem begins to arise when they are used means considered unethical by focusing communication on the little ones to convince them that they need a certain product.

They become spreaders of that product and act to effectively carry out the acquisition, by convincing the parents. Another form of abuse is coerce the child to buy something so that he does not feel excluded or inferior.

Children’s advertising becomes abusive when marketing and product promotion focus on to convince the child, through methods considered dubious, to make the purchase. After all, the target audience is extremely vulnerable and susceptible to consumption, since such individuals are neither mature nor fully aware of reality.

It was then that experts began to see the need to regulate better this market, not only because of the possibility of excessive manipulation, but also because of possible approaches that are not healthy, such as early erotization.

The impacts of this advertising on children

Due to the hypervulnerability of children, the impact that an advertisement can have on them is much bigger than in an adult. That’s why advertising for children is so controversial.

According to experts from Conanda (National Council for the Rights of Children and Adolescents), children’s advertising ignores the authority of the parents and may even override it, when trying to fill spaces during the time when the child is not under the direct supervision of the parents or other relatives.

How legislation identifies and regulates child advertising

In London, children’s advertising is regulated some laws and regulatory bodies.

Some rules are present in the Federal Constitution, the Child and Adolescent Statute, the Consumer Protection Code, the London Advertising Self-Regulation Code of the National Advertising Self-Regulation Council (CONAR) and also in resolution 163 of Conanda.

Inspection is done by denunciations to the Public Ministry, which investigates commercials based on legislation. In total, there are 22 rules that regulate children’s advertising in London.

For comparative purposes, there are 16 in the UK and, in the United States, 15. In countries like Sweden, Norway, Canada (Quebec only) and Germany, child advertising is prohibited.

The impacts of the regulation of these advertising actions in London

Although the Federal Constitution and the ECA date back to the 1990s, it was only in the early 2000s that children’s advertising began to have opponents, who began to raise their flag against children’s advertising.

And it was a major breakthrough when, in 2014, Conanda published resolution 163, which regulates advertising for children.

Since the beginning of this regulation, some commercials have been taken from the air. The oldest ones, which are still in the memory of children of the time, now adults, can be found on YouTube, but now no longer as advertising, but for simple viewing and analysis by the public.

The inspection forced companies that work with products and services for children to advertise in another way, less doubtful and more educative, even though it remains geared towards children.

The points of disagreement

According to the coordinator of the Child and Consumption Program, of the Alana Institute, any advertising by children is harmful and should be prohibited, as its very definition alone characterizes abuse.

In practice, this did not happen and, taking due care due to the fragility and immaturity of the public, it is still possible to advertise children’s products.

On the other hand, according to a study published by ABRAL (London Licensing Association), 80% of licensed products in London they are aimed at children and, according to them, it is a wide market that cannot be simply prohibited.

According to ABRAL, products licensed with the use of a character known to children are 20% more likely to be sold. In addition, the market itself, according to the association, is booming, as it presents a growth annual average of 14%, according to data released in 2017.

Another major disagreement is in the products themselves, especially food products, as the majority consists of products of low nutritional quality and rich in sugar and preservatives, which contributes to the Child obesity.

Speaking of childhood obesity, this is considered a epidemic worldwide, which raises concerns about the health and quality of life of these children, who are likely to suffer consequences in adulthood.

According to a WHO study, the number of overweight children and adolescents has increased 10-fold in Latin America since the study began in 1975.

Children’s advertising in the digital environment

Internet advertising for children

In an attempt to dribble strict regulation, some companies decided to bet on digital.

Although, according to a survey carried out in 2014 by Ibope’s National Television Panel, children spend on average 5h35min a day in front of the TV, it is evident the greater influence that the internet has on children today, especially the younger ones.

A study by Viacom in 2017 found that London children aged 2 to 5 years spend 50% more time on the internet than the global average.

According to research by AppGuardian, an application for parents, individuals aged 5 to 15 are spending an average of 25 hours a month just in front of YouTube. If you add YouTube Kids and Youtube Go, that time goes up for 47 hours.

In that same survey, it was found that the average time on mobile is 5.7 hours per day, and on weekends this value rises to 6.9 hours.

The market for children’s advertising on the Internet is so strong that YouTube was recently fined by US regulators $ 170 million for collecting data and target ads for kids.

This amount was calculated based on the profit estimate that the platform had when targeting the ads to children. In addition to the fine, the company was forced to adapt in 4 months, to ensure greater protection for children.

From that period, anyone who watches children’s videos will no longer have their data collected for targeted ads to be made.

How can companies deal with these restrictions

With so many restrictions and controversies, it is necessary to have a extra attention when thinking about communication aimed at children.

To assist, ABRAL launched a booklet, which is a practical guide for advertising to children and adolescents, based on London regulations and legislation.

The booklet briefly shows the rules to avoid falling into abusive advertising and in disagreement with the legislation, focusing on creating the responsible child advertising that helps parents educate their children.

To help you understand a little more about this universe, we have listed some rules that need to be obeyed in this type of advertising. Check it out below.

1. Use of certain imperative verbs

Imperative verbs, such as “ask”, “buy” and “acquire”, are prohibited. The main issue for this ban is that the purchase process must naturally go through reflection and research that support decision making.

This type of audience is not considered capable of carrying out this task in a consistent way, being easily persuaded by the strength that these verbs have.

Also, be careful when defining the language to be used in these advertisements is crucial to comply with legal requirements and avoid problems because of that.

CONAR carries out a strict inspection and annually suspends several advertisements that do not comply with the legislation, which makes it even more important to choose the appropriate words to compose the advertising text.

2. Display of advertisements on television

Broadcasters already know, but it is still important to warn. TV advertisements for children are no longer allowed, since 2014, by the Conanda resolution.

In addition, making advertisements using animated characters or that refer to the children’s universe, that somehow draw the children’s attention, is also prohibited.

This item about children’s television advertising it is one of the ones that most cause disagreements between experts for and against.

While some believe that there is no possibility to advertise to children without being abusive by definition, there are those who believe that this prohibition is a way of censoring and restricting the population from consuming products.

3. Encouraging unhealthy eating

It is not just the excessive consumption of processed foods, full of preservatives, sugars and fats, that is harmful to children. In fact, the very fact that eating these products is bad.

And how many filled cookies, industrial cookies, box juices, among others, have advertisements aimed at children?

For not having notion of control, small children can be led to consume more than they should, causing overweight and obesity.

4. Constraints to the child

In the 90s, when there was no regulation on children’s advertising, an advertising piece about a licensed product “Mickey and Minnie” was shown on TV (which is no longer allowed today).

In the commercial, a boy repeated something like “I have, you don’t have”. That is one clear example of embarrassment that is no longer allowed today.

To convey the idea that the child is inferior for not having a certain product or the opposite, to convince him that he is somehow superior by acquiring something, characterizes an embarrassment. Therefore, it is prohibited in advertising for children.

Cause fear on children or showing any kind of danger to something illegal is also not allowed in children’s commercials.

5. Creation of a false reality when producing material in journalistic format

Children don’t know how to distinguish when a commercial is not real news. This particular format is very persuasive for them and is therefore prohibited.

6. Devaluation of the authority of parents and guardians

Persuade the child to conclude that his parents and responsible do not deserve to be heard and respected in their decisions and rules, it violates ethics, since they are responsible for educating children.

7. Married sale

Condition the sale of one product to the purchase of another it is already a prohibited practice, regardless of age. Doing this with children then, especially when saying that such a product is a gift, further characterizes the abuse of a children’s advertising piece.

Brands that managed to work positively with this audience

Despite so much controversy, it is possible to advertise children responsibly, while create campaigns that refer to intellectual growth and that open doors to a child’s imagination and playful universe.

Some of these pieces are in English and have no subtitles, but through the images it is already possible to understand well the creative concept of each one.

1. Breach of the Dream

A 2018 Barbie campaign can be cited as one of the children’s advertisements that most encouraged girls to be themselves in the future.

2. Monash Children’s Hospital

The Monash Children’s Hospital advertising piece about the imagination power to help sick children, it is also an excellent example of how to contribute to a child’s education and empowerment.

3. Everyone’s Welcome

When they saw a commercial for Cbeebies, the BBC children’s channel, the children could see that we are all the same, no matter the differences. Another educational piece that teaches children a lot.

If it is forbidden and abusive to teach children to disparage the parenting work, then the opposite can be the perfect opportunity to create excellent responsible and ethical advertising for children.

4. Thank You Mom

A P&G campaign on the occasion of the Winter Olympics in Russia certainly made thousands of mothers feel rewarded. It was a great way to sell children’s products in a commercial completely aimed at mothers.

Other great children’s advertising ideas can be found in an Adforum selection, made especially to celebrate children’s day.


It is possible to do responsible and conscientious child advertising, assisting real buyers – parents and guardians – and not playing children against parents through manipulative advertising campaigns, as has happened in some cases.

Compared to other places, a survey by the London Association of Advertisers (ABA), in partnership with CONAR, analyzed what the rules are like in 18 countries, finding similarities between part of our legislation with UK standards and the self-regulatory process from Australia.

In certain locations cited in the study, there are cases such as the total banning of children’s advertising on television, strong regulation of the time for advertisements to be broadcast and the prohibition of drinks and food commercials that are considered harmful to health.

Discussions involving children’s advertising are far from over, but the tendency is for it to continue to exist, but reinventing itself every year to make this market more constructive in the education of children, acting alongside parents and guardians.

And since we talk so much about YouTube, if you are interested in setting up a content strategy for that platform, check out 10 ideas for making videos!