What is online behavioural advertising?
What is it?
Have you been browsing the web and wonder why particular ads pop up- it could be online behavioural advertising (OBA). OBA is the practice of recording sites you visit on the internet and categorising them according to interests. This information is then stored as a cookie on your computer and advertisers then send you ads according to those interests. For example if you have been visiting mobile phone sites, a cookie will be placed on your computer to identify you as someone interested in mobile phones and when you are on the internet you will receive advertisements about mobile phones. Advertisers are quick to explain this data is non-identifiable and does not include your personal information.
Besides OBA what other forms of internet advertising are there?
Contextual advertising is advertising based on the site you are visiting eg travel ads on a travel site.
Customer profile advertising is based on personal information you have provided.
Geo-targeting is advertising based on the geographic location of where you access the internet (your server).
What can I do about it?
Read the privacy policies on websites that use OBA. Be familiar with the privacy settings on your computer. Some companies have signed up to the Australian Best Practice Guideline and have developed procedures to allow you to opt out of OBA. That service is limited to OBA and to that particular company.
If it is about the content of the advertisement contact the Advertising Standards Board
If it is about the use of your personal information contact the Australian Direct Marketing Association
You could also contact the site you were on at the time or the Australian Digital Advertising Alliance
Advertising to children
The Guidelines state:
“Entities agree to comply with applicable law and self regulatory codes in relation to marketing and advertising to children (for example the AANA Code for Marketing and Advertising to Children and the ADMA Direct Marketing Code of Practice). OBA categories uniquely designed to target children under 13 will not be created.”
Why should I make a complaint about junk food marketing to children?
Why is it important to act now?
In 2008, the Australian Government’s advisory group, the National Preventative Health Taskforce made a set of recommendations around reducing chronic disease associated with tobacco, obesity and alcohol consumption. One of the Taskforce’s Key Action Areas was:
“Reduce exposure of children and others to marketing, advertising, promotion and sponsorship of energy-dense nutrient-poor foods and beverages”
In order to do this, the Taskforce recommended trialling self-regulation by the food industry, with television junk food advertising to children before 9.00pm to be completely phased out within four years. The Government agreed that self-regulation should be monitored before further government regulation is considered.
The time is right to monitor the food industry’s compliance with the voluntary marketing regulations, and uncover the loopholes in these regulations. This will lead to an environment that helps protect our children from aggressive marketing tactics and ultimately will help the fight against childhood overweight and obesity.
How can I get involved in Junkbusters?
There are 4 ways you can make a difference as part of the Junkbusters project:
1. Click here to tell us about any food marketing aimed at children that you have seen and are concerned about.
2. Use the Regulations Page to lodge a complaint about an advertisement or other marketing strategy aimed at children.
3. Sign up to become a Junkbuster and help us to identify examples of food marketing aimed at children and spread the word about the project. If you are interested, simply email your name and contact number to email@example.com with ‘Junkbusters’ in the subject line and we will send you more information.
4. Share this website with your contacts.
What will happen once I tell you my concern?
Tell us about specific examples of marketing of junk food to children, and we will advise you if there are grounds for a complaint and help you make your complaint to the appropriate body.
If your example of junk food marketing is not covered by the regulations, we will keep a record of it, to help illustrate gaps in the system. This information helps to assess whether the self-regulation system is adequate to protect children from inappropriate marketing of junk food.
Click here to tell us your concern.
Why would I complain under the Competition and Consumer Act?
If you believe that any marketing is misleading or deceiving, such as providing false information about the nutritional content or health benefits of a food, you would complain to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission under the Competition and Consumer Act (formerly the Trade Practices Act).
For example, a food advertisement that creates the impression that a product is nutritious or good for children by highlighting beneficial nutrients or ingredients in food (e.g. promoting food as being high in fibre, protein or fruit), but that fails to draw attention to negative nutrients in the product (e.g. high sugar or saturated fat content) might be considered to be misleading or deceptive.
What advertising does the Children’s Television Standards cover?
The Children’s Television Standards, administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, covers advertising on free to air stations during and immediately before and after children’s programming. Children’s programming is classified as P or C in television guides.
The Standards do not allow advertising during P classified programs and limit the time that advertisements can be shown during C classified programs to no more than 5 minutes in each 30 minute period, except in the case of Australian children’s drama programs.
The Standards also state that advertisements in P and C programs cannot:
• Mislead or deceive children (e.g. trick a child into believing something that’s not true).
• Create pressure to buy the product (e.g. leading a child to believe they will be more popular if they have the product, or promoting ‘pester power’ by children).
• Use characters or personalities to promote the product.
Advertisements must also only advertise ‘premiums’ (e.g. free toys with purchase or product giveaways) in a way that is incidental to the product, so that children don’t believe it’s the premium itself being advertised.
Complaints under this regulation should go to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
I saw an advertisement on free to air television that I’m not happy with. Where would I complain?
If the advertisement was shown during a P or C program it is covered by the Children’s Television Standards (see more detail in the FAQ about this standard).
Advertisements on free to air television that are shown during programming other than P and C classified programs are covered by the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice. You can complain under this code if the advertisement encourages or promotes an inactive lifestyle or unhealthy eating or it contains misleading information about the nutritional content of the food.
To complain under the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice, you must first make a complaint in writing to the television station within 30 days of seeing the advertisement. If you are not satisfied with the station’s response or they have taken longer than 60 days to respond, you should then send your complaint to the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
There are several other self-regulated codes developed by the advertising and food industries which cover food advertising to children.
- The Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Food and Beverage Code
- The AANA Code for Advertising and Marketing Communications to Children
- The Australian Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children
- The Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative of the Australian Food and Beverage Industry
These voluntary codes apply to TV and many types of media and are discussed in more detail in the FAQ below and in the “regulations” pages. Complaints regarding these voluntary regulations should be directed to the Advertising Standards Bureau.
I saw some marketing that was targeted to children and not on TV. Where should I complain?
Food marketing on pay television, radio, print media (newspaper or magazines), cinemas, outdoor signs, websites and email are covered by several codes developed by the advertising and food industries. Complaints under these codes can be made to the Advertising Standards Bureau.
If your complaint is about advertising of unhealthy fast food directed at children (as defined by a set of nutrient criteria), or the use of premiums (e.g. free toy) or special offers (gift with purchase) or personalities or characters, you can complain under the Australian Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children.
If your complaint is not about fast food but the advertisement is aimed at children under 12 and the company advertising has signed up to the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative of the Australian Food and Beverage Industry (see regulations page for links to find out if they have) then you can complain under this Initiative. Types of issues that may warrant complaints are if the food does not represent healthy choices, or if the marketing is dominated by the use of a premium (more than half the advertisement), or uses personalities or characters to endorse a product.
Finally, if your complaint relates to misleading or deceptive information on the nutritional content or health benefits of the food or if it creates peer pressure (e.g. child will have an advantage over other kids if they have the product) or parental pressure (e.g. encourages children to pester their parents for the food), then you can complain under the Australian Association of National Advertisers Food and Beverage Code or Code for Advertising and Marketing Communications to Children. You can refer to both these codes in your complaint.
What are some of the loopholes in the way food marketing is currently regulated?
Here are just a few examples:
- There are no codes covering marketing like brand marketing in sporting events (for example a sports drink sponsoring national sporting competitions, teams or stadiums), in-store promotions (such as supermarket displays of lollies) or packaging.
- Fast food companies can market their ‘brand’ to children, as long as they’re not marketing products that don’t meet the nutrition guidelines. An example is of a fast food company marketing collectibles but not advertising their meals.
- For an advertisement to ‘promote inactive lifestyles’ or ‘unhealthy eating’, it has to actually state to children that inactivity is a good lifestyle choice or encourage children to overconsume a product. To avoid this, advertisers simply use fit-looking or active children and state that the product can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.
- Some codes rely on company-set nutrition criteria, meaning that companies can set their own criteria low so that their products can be marketed to children.
It is important to let us know of your concerns, so we can get a better idea of community concern about junk food marketing to children. Click here to tell us your concern.
How hard is it to complain about objectionable food marketing aimed at children?
Complaining about examples of objectionable food marketing aimed at children is not difficult. Many complaints can be completed online or via email, and the information about doing so is easy to find. The hard bit is working out to who you can voice your concerns.
That’s why we have taken all the guesswork out of lodging a complaint, and gathered all the information in one spot. Click here to tell us your concern or click here to see more information about the regulations.
Will there be any consequences if I do complain?
Although the complaint process asks you for contact details for clarification of complaints and reporting of the outcome, your identity will not be revealed to the advertiser or the public and there are no consequences for the complainant once the complaint is lodged. However if you are worried, you should read the privacy statements on the relevant body’s website for more information.
How long will it take for my complaint to be decided?
Complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau are usually decided within 6 weeks.
Complaints to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) may take several months to be resolved, as a formal investigation may need to be undertaken if the agency suspects a breach has occurred. The agency will usually let you know within one or two months whether they have decided to investigate your complaint.
What happens if my complaint is upheld?
If your complaint is upheld by the Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB), the company may be requested to withdraw or modify the advertisement (the ASB cannot force companies to comply with its requests, but in most cases they do so voluntarily).
If your complaint is upheld by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the company may be legally required to withdraw or amend the advertisement or other marketing strategy. The company may also be forced to take further action, such as paying a fine or advertising their breach publicly (corrective advertising).
How do I contact Junkbusters?
To request more information or to discuss how to get involved in the campaign, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Cancer Council NSW on (02) 9334 1467.
For more information on Cancer Council NSW visit www.cancercouncil.com.au
Have an example of food marketing to children? Click here to tell us about it.