A poster for Vype electronic cigarettes, seen on a bus shelter on 28 February 2019.
First Group Enterprises Ltd t/a First News (a newspaper for young readers) noted that the ad appeared in a public space at a bus stop used by a significant proportion of children and challenged whether the ad had been appropriately placed.
British American Tobacco UK Ltd t/a Vype said the site where the ad was seen formed part of what was referred to as an ‘alcohol package’ offered by media buying agencies. That meant that the location had been deemed appropriate for the placement of ads for alcoholic products as well as other restricted products such as online gaming and certain types of food and carbonated soft drinks.
Vype said that one of the main criteria for being part of the ‘alcohol package’ was that the location complied with the so-called ‘100 metre rule’ which meant that certain products must not be advertised within 100 metres of a school, in order to avoid inadvertently directing the ad at people who were under 18 years old. They said the bus stop was more than 100 metres from the nearest school and they also provided information indicating that three local schools had distances of 132, 321 and 482 metres respectively from the bus stop. Vype said that the bus stop served three bus routes, all of which covered significant distances through urban surroundings at a variety of sites and they did not believe that any of the sites specifically served any one school or college.
Vype said they considered the footfall data for the bus stop which indicated that the site was expected to show a footfall of around 51,000 adults over the two-week period the ad was displayed. They said they understood from their agent that the ad would have inadvertently reached a small population of under 18s, but the number fell below the ceiling of 25% of the total audience. They believed, based on the information they had that the ad would have been seen by a small proportion of 15- to 17-year olds, which meant that they were 1.9% of the total audience. Vype said although they had no data specifically for under 15s, extrapolating the 1.9% figure for 15- to 17-year olds meant the audience under 18 years old would be well below 25% of the total audience.
Vype said the locations of the sites where they chose to advertise were selected based on the entire potential audience, which included both bus route and bus stop users, footfall and from passing vehicles. All vehicle drivers would be at least 17 years old, with the vast majority being over 18. They said that the location of the bus stop on an arterial route, between two large shopping areas, ensured that a demographically diverse range of the population would see the ad, therefore people under 18 years of age were not inappropriately targeted.
J C Decaux, which owned the poster site, said that due diligence had been applied to the campaign and all posters were 100 metres or more from schools.
The CAP Code required that ads for electronic cigarettes must not be directed at people under 18 years of age through the selection of media or the context in which they appeared and that no medium should be used to advertise e-cigarettes if more than 25% of its audience was under the age of 18.
The ad was displayed on a bus shelter said to be used by a significant proportion of children and served by bus routes specifically for local schools and colleges. We considered the data provided showed there were significant distances between the ad and the nearest schools and that steps had been taken to ensure that the ad was not displayed near schools. We also understood that of the three bus routes that served the bus stop, one of the routes was a service timed to coincide with school term dates, but could still be used by all members of the public and so would not be used exclusively by children.
We noted that the bus stop was already categorised as being appropriate for the placement of age-restricted products and we considered the location of the bus stop and the routes it served meant that the majority of the likely audience using the bus stop, or passing by it in vehicles, would comprise people over 18.
While we acknowledged that children using the bus stop or going past it on a bus may have seen the ad, we considered it unlikely that people under 18 comprised more than 25% of the audience. We considered that reasonable steps had been taken to ensure that was the case.
We therefore concluded that the ad’s placement did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 22.11 22.11 Marketing communications must not be directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. No medium should be used to advertise e-cigarettes if more than 25% of its audience is under 18 years of age. but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.