WHO Europe: Call for Monitoring Digital Marketing of Alcohol and Tobacco
A new report by the WHO Europe calls for increased monitoring of digital marketing of alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food products.
Despite the recommendations by WHO in 2010 on marketing of products to children, the advertising industry is continuing to target children and adolescents on digital media with alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food promotions. An increasing number of children and youth are using mobile devices today. Difficulty arises as digital marketing done through these devices are hard to track.
The overriding concern is that nearly a decade after introducing the 2010 WHO recommendations on the marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children, exposure of children to the online marketing of unhealthy food products, tobacco and alcohol remains commonplace,” said Dr João Breda, Head of the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.
The report titled “Monitoring and restricting digital marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents (2019)” identifies the challenge that information on the digital lives of children is scarce. However, data indicates children spend an increased time on digital platforms and social media today, and this trend continues to grow. This means children are also exposed more to digital marketing.
Monitoring online marketing of unhealthy products to children is crucial because Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, heart disease and chronic respiratory disease is linked to smoking tobacco, alcohol use and consuming unhealthy food. By addressing these major risk factors in childhood, the onset of NCDs can be prevented or slowed. Therefore, the report calls for urgent development and implementation of a set of tools for monitoring the exposure of children to digital marketing.
Introducing the ‘CLICK’ Tool
The June 2018 expert meeting on “the monitoring of digital marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents” has set forth clear steps in tackling the issue.
The CLICK tool is introduced by WHO to monitor the real exposure of children to digital marketing of alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy food products. The tool focuses on 5 key components.
C – Comprehend the digital ecosystem: Map digital marketing ecosystem, nationally, regionally and internationally. Chart web and digital platform use of children. Form focus groups to identify ideas, experience and awareness of children and their parents/guardians on digital marketing.
L – Landscape of campaigns: Analyze campaigns of leading national brands through information from advertising agencies and sampling whole-country social media. This will help to understand relevant content viewed by different age groups.
I – Investigate exposure: Map exposure to selected paid digital marketing through a group of children in each age category. A smartphone application installed (with consent) into the devices used by these children will monitor and collect data on children’s interaction with advertisements in some websites and social media.
C – Capture on-screen: Use real-time screen-capture software on a subgroup of devices to assess what a representative sample of children actually sees online on their devices. This will increase understanding of wider marketing techniques, including user-generated content and product placement.
K – Knowledge sharing: Create user-friendly materials from the research data. Develop partnerships with young people, parents, policy-makers and members of civil society who together can advocate for change, raise awareness and influence policy.
WHO intends to establish a panel across member states to benchmark and highlight relevant issues on digital marketing to regulators and policy makers. The ‘CLICK’ tool can be used by countries to monitor the digital marketing exposure of unhealthy products to children. The collected information can be utilized in the WHO panel in developing policies and best practices to protect children and adolescents from digital marketing of alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy products.