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

The Reference Guide on Advertising to Children can be found here. 

ICC Statement on Code Interpretation

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 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 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.

An overarching principle of the ICC Code is that marketing communications must be legal, decent,
honest and truthful, considering how the communication is likely to be interpreted by the primary
target audience. The ICC Code recognizes that some added fair marketing communications
principles should apply to both children and teens, while other specific marketing communications
principles should apply only to children. For example, products that are unsuitable for purchase, use
or consumption by children and teens in the jurisdiction where the marketing communications appear
should not be advertised in media targeted to them, while other provisions of the Code (e.g. the use
of fantasy in advertising) include additional best practices for child-directed marketing
communications. Likewise, children and teens should not be portrayed in advertisements using
products that are not appropriate for them to use.

The ICC recognizes that some local laws may define “children” and “young people” differently.
Marketers of course must respect local laws when it comes to structuring local marketing
communications. The ICC decision to adopt age 12 and younger as the reference age of “children”
for purposes of advertising and privacy provisions of the ICC Code, and to define “young people” as
teens under 18, reflects proven differences in the ability of children versus teens to understand
marketing communications, the very real differences in teens’ interests as compared to children, the
practical impediments to obtaining parental consent where data collection from teens is concerned,
sensitivities about teen privacy rights, and respect for freedom of commercial communications where
the principal audience is adults. Harmonization around this age will help maintain international
consistency, and is consistent with many content ratings and safety laws around the world.

Staff Contact:   Jonathan Huneke

VP, Communications and Public Affairs
Tel: 212.703.5043

Jonathan Huneke is responsible for USCIB’s strategic communications, including media relations, publications, online content and high-level public events. He also manages the work of USCIB’s Marketing and Advertising Committee.
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