Self-regulation and qualitative standards on advertising



Advertising for food products


Advertising for food and beverage with a high fat, salt and/or sugar content is an issue increasingly debated at both national and European level in conjunction with the growing public health concerns about the rising prevalence of obesity across Europe, notably among children.

egta and its members are committed to play their role in ensuring that unhealthy lifestyles are not encouraged in commercial communications. In fact, the belief in responsible advertising and the added-value of self-regulation as a mean of delivering high-level of consumer protection are two cornerstones of egta membership.


The EU platform for actions on diet, physical activity and health


In 2005, the European Commission launched a multi-stakeholder platform for actions on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. Given its particular field of activity, egta was asked to join the platform process, which was agreed by the Executive Committee on the ground that egta is keen to play its role in an initiative promoting healthy lifestyles in our societies.


The Platform brings together all the relevant players willing to enter into binding and genuine commitments that could help to halt and reverse current obesity trends. egta’s commitment, i.e. to create interpretative guidelines for its members on the most commonly used self-regulatory code of conduct on food advertising, was submitted to the EU Platform in 2008 (please see the related press release). egta’s commitment was upheld on 15 January, when it held a dedicated workshop on the topic of food advertising & the obesity debate (for further information pleasesee the press release). On the occasion of the workshop, egta presented its Interpretative Guidelines on the ICC Framework for Responsible Food and Beverage Marketing Communication. This publication addresses egta member professionals in charge of screening advertisements with the aim of helping them to better understand the most commonly used self-regulatory code on food advertising and to equip them with concrete suggestions on how to call more frequently on the support of national self-regulatory organisations. Part of an overall initiative to raise awareness among sales houses on the need to increase their watchfulness regarding advertising for food high in fat, sugar and salt directed to children, egta’s guidelines have the ultimate goal of ensuring that all broadcast advertising complies with the most commonly used self-regulatory code.


The EU green paper on nutrition and physical activity


Last December 2005, the European Commission released a green paper on nutrition and physical activity and opened a public consultation on the matter. Among all issues addressed, questions on advertising and marketing practices where raised, notably with regards to the efficiency of self-regulation in the area of food advertising. egta submitted comments to this green paper and closely follows debates on these issues.


These discussions were followed in spring 2007 by the release of a Commission White paper on the same issue. Egta welcomes this White Paper which indicates that the European Commission does not believe that advertising restrictions are needed. Instead, the added-value of advertising self-regulation is recognized in this paper and the Commission invites all stakeholders to pursue their efforts in this area.


Nutrition and Health Claims made on Food


After the recent adoption of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, egta remains vigilant that this new piece of legislation is well implemented. The regulation lays down rules concerning claims, which can be made on food products and actually has great impacts on food advertising since claims are central to marketing strategies designed for food products.


One of the most contentious issues during the parliamentary debates on this regulation was the opportunity to introduce nutritional profiling, that would be used to decide whether a claim could be made on a specific food. In addition, it was important to make sure that the claim authorisation procedure not be too complex and lengthy whereas self-regulation mechanisms are already efficient in dealing with television and radio advertising at national level.


It is clear however that this regulation will provide economic operators with legal certainty and enable in particular television and radio advertising for food products to be broadcast in a secure legal environment.


Advertising and children


egta agrees that adequate protection for consumers and minors is essential. However, the issue of the protection of children often leads to very emotional debates that start out with legitimate intentions, but often result in impractical and disproportionate measures being placed on television advertising.


Two recent studies ordered by the European Commission - study on the impact of television advertising and teleshopping on minors (March 2001) and study on the impact of control measures on the televisual advertising markets (July 2005) - lead to the following conclusions:

  • The current regulatory framework already offers a high level of legislative protection within EU Member States, which is complemented by an extensive use of self-regulation.
  • There is an extremely low level of complaints on advertising aimed at children
  • There is a correlation between an excessively detailed level of regulation on advertising towards children and low investment levels on programmes designed for children.
  • Highly restrictive levels of regulation do not necessarily have any impact on advertising for products such as snacks, candy bars, toys or games.

These conclusions and notably the counterproductive effect on the availability of children's programmes are central to egta's thoughts on the issue of advertising to children. A study conducted by egta revealed that 94% of net revenues coming from advertising around children programmes are reinvested in the acquisition of children programmes and that 66.5% of these revenues are reinvested in content produced within the European Union.


Rather than burdensome statutory restrictions, egta highlights the positive role of self-regulation and the responsible attitude of sales houses. All egta members already apply to advertising around children's programmes more stringent standards than statutory obligations.


For more information


Please click here to access egta's position paper related to advertising aimed at children


egta participates in the Responsible Advertising to Children Programme (RAC Programme). Composed of national and European associations as well as industry representatives, this network seeks to promote responsible behaviour in regard to advertising and marketing practices aimed at children. It also supports the development of media literacy programmes, such as MediaSmart, which has been recognised by European Commissioner Viviane Reding as an example of best practices that needs to be further encouraged.


Advertising self-regulation



egta and its members share the strong belief that advertising is highly beneficial to our modern societies as long as it is legal, decent, honest and truthful. Self regulation has proved effective in delivering high levels of consumer confidence in advertising thanks to self-policing of industry actors and the development of qualitative standards beyond statutory obligations.


egta as a member of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA) supports actively advertising self-regulation in all European circles, such as in the framework of the Advertising Roundtable organised by the European Commission. egta has a seat in the EASA Executive Committee and participates both in the 'New Media Task Force' - a working group dealing with advertising in the digital age - and in ‘The Role of Media Task Force’ - aiming at strengthening the specific contribution of media to self-regulation.


To respond to the challenges of consumer protection in a digital age, egta has actively engaged in the development of EASA’s (European Advertising Standards Alliance) best practice recommendations on online behavioral advertising, launched in April 2011 to respond to the regulatory debate on the privacy of consumers online by means of self-regulation. With the adoption of the best practice recommendations, national advertising self-regulatory organisations are now committed to applying self-regulatory standards to online behavioral advertising, handling complaints and introducing the principles of the recommendation into their Codes (to know more about the principles visit Consumers that want to complain about a behaviorally targeted advertisement will be therefore able to do so via the established, independent advertising self regulatory organization in their home country. egta and its member sales houses will take an active part in the rollout of the initiative (to cover 70% of self-regulatory associations by end of April 2012). Please note that the recommendations are available here.