ASA penalises McDonald’s, KFC, and Asda for showing junk food ads to children on YouTube

Josh Peachey's picture
by Josh Peachey

McDonalds, KFC and Asda are among a number of brands who have been hit with a ban from the ASA for ads on YouTube. 

The ASA has banned ads from eight companies who were targeting children on YouTube, promoting food and soft drinks that were high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS). 

The eight brands who had ads banned following an investigation by the ASA included McDonald's, KFC, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Kellogg's, KP snacks and Pringles.  

The ASA said brands were, in general, sticking to the rules around targeting unhealthy food to under-16’s online but the YouTube platform was still causing issues. 

The machine-learning investigation took place in the two weeks ahead of Christmas and monitored ads across 210 websites and 87 YouTube Channels. 

The ASA used its new avatar technology to simulate the online profiles of children in order to identify the types of adverts they are shown on the web.

The results showed that 2.3% of 41,030 ads served to child avatars across general interest and youth interest websites and YouTube channels were for HFSS products.

The Drum reported that ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker said: “Protecting children is one of our top priorities.

“The problematic ads we found were relatively few in number, compared to the total served, but we’ll take action in respect of any ad for high fat, salt or sugar food and soft drinks which is found to be directed inappropriately at children.”

Speaking about the investigation, Michael Todd, Google’s Head of Ad Industry Regulations, said: "Because we want to ensure that children are not seeing inappropriate ads, we have robust advertising policies and provide tools to advertisers to exclude under 18 viewers from their campaigns. If we discover ads that break our policies, we take swift action. 

“We’re reviewing the findings of the report and will continue to work with the ASA, as well as providing materials and training to advertisers so that they can reach the right audience on YouTube.”

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