British marketers got a big surprise this week when UK regulator, Ofcom (Office of Communications), banned the targeting of children under 16 with junk-food advertising. Ofcom also said it plans to apply a "nutrient-profiling" test to discern which products fall under its junk-food label.

AdAge.com reports Ofcom's ruling includes a total ban on advertising foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) in children's programming, as well as in youth-oriented and adult programs that attract a lot of viewers under 16. Many of the marketers involved have voluntarily stopped targeting young children in recent years, and moved their campaigns onto youth channels such as MTV, believing they were safe in targeting teenagers.

The article says Europe is "a patchwork of self-regulatory measures and outright bans" when it comes to advertising aimed at children. "Until now, the UK had leaned toward self-regulation. Hoping to fend off legal action in the U.K., KFC and Burger King both ended all toy promotions, and Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Kraft, Burger King and McDonald's Corp., all promised not to advertise to children under 12. The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers drafted a voluntary code banning the use of cartoon characters, licensed characters and celebrities who appeal to children in commercials."

AdAge reports the UK rules are clearer and may be easier to implement than those being mulled by the French. There, food marketers were supposed to either add a health message to ads for any manufactured food or beverage, except water, or pay a tax equal to 1.5% of their annual ad budget toward campaigns for more-healthful eating.
-- Joe Roybal