BRUSSELS: Most of the biggest food brands in Europe have transformed their marketing activity aimed at children, in line with a commitment made three years ago.

Research by Accenture Media Management found firms representing nearly 70% of food adspend in the European Union have adapted their strategies in this area.

It assessed the period from 2005 to 2010, and said the majority of corporations no longer promoted products to children under 12 years old or now only ran ads covering "better for you" goods.

These figures were released as part of an annual assessment of the EU Pledge, which was signed by 11 major companies like Burger King, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Mars, Nestlé and PepsiCo in 2007.

Such a move sought to ensure conformity with the European Commission's Platform on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, and applied to TV, print, the web and communications in primary schools.

Accenture's analysis of 580,000 sample TV spots in Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain demonstrated a 98.9% compliance level.

Based on an appraisal of almost 50 websites mainly used by children in the same countries, just one erroneous example was identified.

Overall, Accenture's review revealed the amount of exposures for food on all TV shows and channels has declined 36%.

Many manufacturers have adopted stringent nutritional criteria to define healthier products, but even here the number of commercials has dropped 60%.

Elsewhere, monitoring of print ads in magazines specifically for this demographic available in France, Portugal, Spain and the UK yielded a 100% approval rating.

Separately, BDRC Continental surveyed 400 schools in Belgium, Italy, Slovakia and the UK, and discovered brand owners met the rules on 92% of occasions.

"Voluntary action can often be more effective and delivered in a shorter timeframe than government regulation," said Stephan Loerke, managing director of the World Federation of Advertisers.

"These independent audits show how self-regulation can help deliver on public policy objectives and why it should not be discounted from the policy mix."

Cadbury and Wrigley are set to join the EU Pledge after respective takeovers by Kraft and Mars, while Procter & Gamble, Intersnack, Lorenz Snack-World, Unichips-San Carlo and Zweifel Pomy-Chip have also signed up.

Data sourced from World Federation of Advertisers; additional content by Warc staff