Responsible Marketing and Advertising

handwashing promotion
© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-1120/Kate Holt
Illustrations on walls at the latrines promote healthy hygiene behaviours.

Marketing to and for children is a growing business in many parts of the world, attracting increasing attention from parents, regulators, business and civil society. Some products, such as baby food and paediatric medicine, are marketed to parents, while others are marketed directly to children who begin to make their own buying decisions from an early age. Companies also take advantage of the influence children have on their parents’ spending (the nag factor) in the marketing of foods, entertainment products or even motor vehicles.  Increasing connectivity to the larger world, where children are potentially the most avid customers, has opened new avenues for marketers to reach them often without the knowledge or supervision of parents or caregivers.

Governments and other entities, including the United Nations, are looking into the negative effects of child-focused marketing, and some have created administrative units specifically charged with reviewing this type of advertising. The threat of greater regulation, such as requirements to provide increased information to customers, especially children, regarding fat, salt and sugar content of fast foods in certain countries, is changing the dynamics of consumer marketing in some respects.  Meanwhile, numerous industry groups have developed voluntary, self-regulatory international codes of conduct that specifically address the issue of marketing to children. Legally enforceable regulations must be followed to ensure the highest level of protection of children from targeted marketing and advertising.

What your company can do:

  • Have a responsible marketing and advertising policy in place and adopt a broad view of what ‘harmful’ means for children.
  • Regularly update your marketing and advertising policy to reflect the rapidly changing media landscape.
  • Don’t use cartoon characters, young actors or other symbols likely to engage a younger audience in your product advertisements.
  • Don’t place advertisements in locations or venues that are foreseeably frequented or accessed by children of inappropriate age groups for the product.
  • Do not hire children as ‘brand ambassadors’ or in peer-to-peer marketing at schools or on social networking sites.
  • Take a responsible approach to food marketing, advertising and labelling to children. 
  • Develop and disseminate messages and advertising to children and parents that promote healthy behaviours and products.