The Advertising Association (AA) claims the review into the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood is turning into a one-sided argument, amid fears the industry will carry the can for society’s ills.
The review is strongly backed by David Cameron, who hit out at the premature sexualisation of children in one of his first major interventions as Conservative leader, more than four years ago. He claims children are being “prematurely sexualised” by retailers after protests over high-heeled shoes and provocative underwear aimed at girls as young as 10. Primark, for instance, sells a range of padded bras for young girls, while other retailers offer T-shirts with slogans such as “I’m a t**s man”, “The condom broke”, and “Mummy likes it on top”.
The AA move follows a call for evidence from the Bailey Review which has prompted concerns that its focus on advertising and marketing has become disproportionate and inherently negative.
Reg Bailey, chief Executive of the Mothers’ Union, is carrying out the review and is canvassing opinion from parents in a 10-minute questionnaire, the results of which will help him develop his recommendations to be published in May.
Yet the AA has criticised the fact that the questionnaire prompts respondents to comment on advertising and marketing practices no fewer than 21 times. In one question, asking parents what would be helpful to them in making buying decisions, five marketing restrictions are proposed before any other response.
“It’s a very one-sided point of view,” says Ian Barber, director of communications at the AA. “Whenever advertising is mentioned, it is in a negative context. There is no recognition of a positive impact on children’s lives and no mention of the raft of regulatory protections already in place. It’s important that industry works constructively on this review, but it’s equally important that its starting point is well informed and balanced.”
The AA is managing a cross-industry response to the Bailey Review, providing extensive evidence, insight into current regulatory protections and a route to constructive discussions with advertisers, media-owners and advertising practitioners.
In 2009, the Government’s Buckingham Review, an independent academic review of The Impact of the Commercial World on Children’s Wellbeing, warned that “…a disproportionate focus on advertising is likely to distract attention from other factors which may have more impact on the issue concerned.”
Late last year, Children’s Minister Tim Loughton told DecisionMarketing that a heavy-handed clampdown on brands which target children was counter-productive, saying he favoured a conciliatory approach.
Minister: ‘We won’t batter marketers’