Children are generally recognized by both industry and government to be a vulnerable or special audience when it comes to advertising. On June 28, 2023, a new advertising code will be coming into effect as released by Ad Standards Canada. It is intended to expand upon legislative, regulatory, and self-regulatory regimes that already exist in Canada (including in Quebec). In addition, on April 25, 2023, Health Canada provided a policy update on restricting food advertising primarily directed at children.
The new Code for the Responsible Advertising of Food and Beverage Products to Children (the Code) prohibits advertising food and drinks to children under the age of 13—unless certain nutritional thresholds are met. The Code targets all advertisements directed to residents of Canada that:
- feature a food or drink product;
- are “primarily directed” at children; and
- appear in any media, including non-traditional media (e.g., social media, streaming services, apps, games, and product placements).
“Primarily directed” at children
When considering whether an advertisement is “primarily directed” at children, Ad Standards will consider:
- the product’s nature and intended purpose;
- how the advertisement is presented; and
- the time and place that the advertisement is shown.
Whether the advertisement is truly primarily directed at children will depend on context. Consider, for instance, the use of animations, music or special jingles. Ad Standards also notes that an advertisement may appeal to children without being “primarily directed” at them in some situations. For example, advertisements that use animation might not be “primarily directed” at children if:
- broadcasted after 9 p.m.;
- posted on age-gated websites; or
- promoted at adult sporting events.
Ultimately, this is a fact-specific analysis and Ad Standards will evaluate each advertisement brought to its attention by its own merit.
The prohibition against advertising a food or beverage product to children under 13