ICC Statement on Code Interpretation and Reference Guide on Advertising to Children

Statement on Code Interpretation and Reference Guide on Advertising to Children

The purpose of this Statement on Code Interpretation is to clarify the age of “children” and the age of “young people” for purposes of the ICC Code.

The International Chamber of Commerce Consolidated Code of Marketing and Advertising Practice (ICC Code) sets forth standards for marketing communications, including provisions addressing special responsibilities for marketing “products” (as defined by the ICC Code, which includes services) to children and young people. Article 18 of the ICC Code outlines principles for advertising to children and young people, while Article 19 establishes principles for data collection involving children.

The ICC’s approach has been informed by almost 100 years of research on child development, and recognizes that children, on the one hand, and teens, on the other, require special consideration based on their differing ability to understand marketing messages. A wealth of data and historical customs and practices support defining “children” as age 12 and younger (i.e. under 13 years old) for marketing-related purposes, and this is generally the age the ICC intends when referring to “children” in the ICC Code. Where the ICC Code refers to “young people,” the ICC generally intends this phrase to mean teenagers (“teens”) under age 18. Children and teens are typically considered “minors” and are barred from purchasing, consuming or using particular products intended for adults.

Conclusion

The ICC recognizes that teens have significantly different interests and understanding, and have greater cognitive abilities to think critically about advertising as compared to children. Rules that attempt to treat teenagers 13 – 18 like children are, quite simply, unworkable. Given the growing globalization of markets, inconsistency in how “children” are defined from both a regulatory and self-regulatory perspective risks undermining the ability to provide free advertiser-supported content suitable for these distinct demographic groups, and could result in a need to collect more personal information from teens to confirm their age. Weighing the considerations outlined above, the ICC adopts, and encourages international harmonization around, a definition that “children” are age 12 and younger for purposes of advertising, and “young persons” are teenagers under age 18.

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