- New report shows advergames can cause subconscious changes to children’s behaviour – including increased consumption of foods high in sugar, salt and fat
- Brands highlighted as using advergames to target children include Chewits, and boy band One Direction’s favourite sweets Lovehearts
PARENTS must be vigilant over companies exploiting legal loopholes to target children with online adverts disguised as games – according to family and childhood experts.
Firms selling food high in sugar, salt and fat are banned from placing adverts on TV around children’s programmes. Yet digital ‘advergames’ encouraging children to eat unhealthy food are escaping regulatory enforcement. They can be accessed by children at any time through their computers or on their phones.
The Family and Parenting Institute charity is today releasing a report, written by leading child marketing expert Professor Agnes Nairn with colleague Dr Haiming Hang, highlighting evidence that the brain processes advergames differently from traditional advertising. Advergames can change children’s behaviour without them being consciously aware of it –raising significant ethical questions.
The Code of Advertising Practice states clearly that ‘adverts must be obviously identifiable as such.’ But the new report highlights that children as old as 15 can fail to recognise advergames as adverts.
The comprehensive report looked at more than 60 studies across 12 different countries. It highlights how advergames are created to promote sugary products such as Chewits, and Lovehearts from Swizzels Matlow – which are also sponsored by boy band One Direction.
Alongside advergames, the Chewits brand also uses its online presence to expose children to adverts that are banned from children’s TV.
Professor Nairn said: “Parents should be worried because certain food products – banned from being advertised to children on TV because they are harmful – are appearing in advergames. Studies on food manufacturers’ websites show that advergames are used prolifically.”
Julia Cream of the Family and Parenting Institute said: “Most parents are in the dark about advergames and are unaware that their children are being targeted in this way. We would urge parents to sit down with their children and to spot the adverts lurking in the games that they play on their phones, computers and other devices.”
She added: “Following the Bailey Review, Prime Minister David Cameron said he would be asking the Advertising Standards Authority whether more should be done to highlight the commercial intent of advergames to young people and parents. We urge him to maintain the momentum on this."
Read the full report here.