Last week the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) in the UK announced that it will be launching a public consultation on introducing new rules limiting junk food advertising to children aged between 12-16 years old. The move will potentially see a new set of rules introduced to British online, outdoor, print media and cinema advertising, as well as direct marketing, where adverts promoting food and soft drinks that are high in fat, sugar or salt to children will be banned.

    But is this move by the CAP a step too far? The ban on screening junk food ads to kids has been in place in the UK for 10 years on TV. Is it high time non-broadcast media like the cinema followed suit? Or is this just an example of excessive meddling in consumer choice?

    It will be imperative for cinema advertising companies to be able to understand the demographics of their audiences

    Either way, the ban does highlight one of the main concerns with cinema advertising – and that is being able to control who does, and crucially does not, see your adverts. If this new ban on junk food advertising is eventually brought in, then it will be imperative for cinema advertising companies to be able to understand the demographics of their audiences, and make sure that the adverts shown are not reaching the wrong viewers.

    Rather than just creating potentially awkward moments or upsetting advertisers with incorrect targeting, cinemas could now be facing official censure and the possibility of hefty fines.

    Ad targeting will have to be really specific - cinema advertising companies will need to be able to target adverts by factors such as genre and age – and even time of day will be important to see, as cinemas typically show children’s movies earlier in the day. Cinemas and advertisers will also need to have complete control over which adverts are sent to which screens, to ensure they do not fall foul of any changes in regulations.

    While brands such as Cadbury, McDonalds and Coca Cola might be looking at this as a threat to their potential viewing audience, the need to control where, and to whom an advert plays is nothing new. So established is it that the quote attributed to John Wanamaker (1838-1922) ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half’ is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago, and shows that potential benefits remain available to those that do successfully overcome the challenge and get their message in front of the right audience. These brands will need to make sure they are targeted in their approach, and being able to segment viewers based on factors such as screening, genre, and location will be essential.

    These discussions aren’t just happening in the UK. Advertising restrictions around the world are getting tighter and this is where software technologies like AdFuser will play an important role. AdFuser gives cinemas and advertisers pinpoint control over where their ad plays, including filters to tailor campaigns like never before. It enables advertisers to plan, target, build and deliver campaigns with previously impossible levels of specificity and flexibility, for example to day of the week, time of day, and to site, screens and movies where specific audiences are known to go (or not go). It also enables agencies and brands to get accurate reports of exactly what played and when, so they can make sure they’re complying with any relevant legislation.

    Whether the junk food ban on non-broadcast media comes to fruition is to be seen. One thing is for certain – being able to target and reach the right audience will be key to both cinemas and advertisers, regardless of whether the ban is enforced.

    What do you think? Is the CAP right to ban junk food ads aimed at children on the big screen? Leave a comment below and tell us what's happening in your country - is cinema advertising becoming more restrictive?



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