New rules prohibiting the sexualisation of under-18s in advertising

Following public consultation, CAP and BCAP are introducing stricter rules prohibiting the sexual portrayal or sexual representation of under-18s, and those who appear to be under 18, in advertising.

We consider that the new rules represent a necessary and proportionate strengthening of existing rules to protect the welfare of under-18s taking into account links between premature sexualisation and harm, alongside national and international measures prohibiting certain types of sexual depiction of under-18s.

Currently the BCAP Code, which applies to broadcast media, has a specific rule prohibiting the portrayal of children in a sexual way. The CAP Code, which applies to non-broadcast media, has no specific rule, although the ASA Council is able to uphold, and has upheld, complaints on this issue under the social responsibility rules.

The new rules being introduced will bring the CAP Code into line with the BCAP Code, and will go even further by protecting all those under-18, as opposed to just children under-16.

We believe our action will address the potential for some adults to view under-18s in general as sexual beings and for some under-18s to be pressurised to view themselves in this way. The new rules will also provide further protection for individual models featured in advertising.

Under the new rules, any sexualised depiction of under-18s will be prohibited, unless the principal function of the ad is to promote the welfare of under-18s or to prevent harm (for example, in ads to promote safe sex).

The rules, which take effect from 2 January 2018, are as follows:

  • New CAP Code rule:

4.6 Marketing communications must not portray or represent anyone who is, or seems to be, under 18 in a sexual way. However, this rule does not apply to marketing communications whose principal function is to promote the welfare of, or to prevent harm to, under-18s, provided any sexual portrayal or representation is not excessive.

  • New BCAP Code rule to replace rule 5.5:

4.4 Advertisements must not portray or represent anyone who is, or seems to be, under 18 in a sexual way. However, this rule does not apply to advertisements whose principal function is to promote the welfare of, or to prevent harm to, under-18s, provided any sexual portrayal or representation is not excessive.

View the consultation and other supporting documents 


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