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Monitoring and restricting digital marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents

Monitoring and restricting digital marketing of unhealthy products to children and adolescents

Kolkata, Mar 15 (UNI) Despite existing political commitments and policies, the latest

evidence shows that children and adolescents are still regularly exposed to digital

marketing of many unhealthy products.

Such products include alcoholic drinks, foods high in saturated fat, salt and free

sugars (HFSS foods), and tobacco, including new products such as electronic

cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and other types of electronic nicotine-delivery systems.

As time spent online shifts increasingly to social media and mobile devices,

where personalized and targeted advertising predominates, the situation is likely

to deteriorate.

Monitoring the online advertising of unhealthy products to children is critical, as

noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, obesity and chronic

respiratory disease are linked to smoking, alcohol abuse and the consumption of

unhealthy food products. The onset of these diseases can be slowed or prevented

if major risk factors and behaviours are addressed during childhood.

The response from governments and public health institutions to this threat to

children’s well-being is lagging far behind, and efforts are complicated by rapid

changes in digital and programmatic marketing strategies. Tools and support are

urgently needed to facilitate monitoring and implementation of the WHO

recommendations in online settings.

The WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable

Diseases organized an expert meeting on monitoring of digital marketing of

unhealthy products to children and adolescents in June 2018.

Based on that meeting, this report aims to provide a tool to support Member

States in monitoring digital marketing of unhealthy products to children; the

resulting tool – the so-called CLICK monitoring framework – is flexible and can

be adapted to national context.

The tool focuses on the following 5 key components.

C – Comprehend the digital ecosystem: Map the global, regional and national

digital marketing ecosystem and children’s website and digital application usage,

and supplement this with focus groups to gauge the thoughts, experiences and

awareness of children (and parents/guardians) about marketing techniques and


L – Landscape of campaigns: Assess campaigns of leading national brands by

collecting information from advertising agencies and by sampling whole-country

social media for relevant content to ascertain what is viewed by different age


I – Investigate exposure: Map exposure to a selection of paid digital marketing

among a panel of children in each age bracket using an installed smartphone

application that (with consent) monitors and aggregates 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 to better understand wider marketing techniques, including

user-generated content and product placement.

K – Knowledge sharing: Create user-friendly materials from the research data

and develop partnerships with young people, parents, policy-makers and members

of civil society who together can advocate for change, raise awareness and

influence policy.

The report also describes current digital marketing strategies, the challenges

arising from current practices, and some policy options to tackle digital marketing

to children and adolescents.


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