The UK ad industry is mustering its forces prior to mounting a counter-attack on proposed European Commission legislation to restrict (or even ban) advertising to children.

An alliance of brands, agencies and trade associations will in June launch, Media Smart, an initiative aiming to develop the ‘media literacy’ of primary [second grade] school children. According to its sponsors, the scheme will help kids to effectively understand and interpret advertising from an early age.

It is based on the premise that effective consumer protection is best delivered by industry self-regulation, echoing a similar Canadian initiative in the 1980s – 'Concerned Children’s Advertisers’ ( which proved successful both with that nation’s advertisers and its government.

In the UK the scheme’s founding sponsors and supporters include two US-based multinationals – food and confectionery colossus Masterfoods and toy manufacturer Hasbro – as well as national breakfast-time broadcaster GMTV, London adshop Burkitt DDB and the Advertising Association.

A similar initiative was launched March 17 by the French ad industry's leading self-regulatory body, the Bureau de Vérification de la Publicité (Truth in Advertising) which published updated and more stringent recommendations for ads that feature or target children [WAMN: 18-Mar-02].

Meanwhile, flexing its legislative pectorals is the consumer committee of the EC’s DG Sanco (Direction Général Santé et Protection des Consommateurs) which seeks tighter rules on marketing to children.

In its working paper issued on March 17, DG Sanco urged: “In view of the vulnerable, easily influenced and credulous target group of young children, it is necessary to introduce a horizontal piece of legislation providing specific restrictions to commercial communications.”

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff