GROUP WANTS CHILDREN'S ADS IN QUEBEC;BAN CUTTING INTO LOCAL TV STATIONS' REVENUES

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At least $12 million a year in estimated lost revenues is at stake because of a law that prohibits Quebec TV from accepting children's advertising. A group of Canadian advertisers, ad agencies and production companies intends to lobby that province's government to relax the ban.

The only children's product advertising allowed in the province are messages aimed at parents placed in TV programs that few children watch.

The group's action is timely because the Consumer Protection office, which assisted advertisers by previewing the parent-directed ads and advising which programs could air the ads, has ended this service due to staff cuts. Advertisers are now trying to comply with the law on their own. Quebec TV stations are attempting to advise advertisers on ad placement or are playing it safe by running the ads late at night.

Advertising to children is a contentious issue around the world. In Europe, some countries prohibit ads aimed at children and are trying to extend the ban to the whole European Union.

The group is organizing under the umbrella of Les Annonceurs Impliqu‚s dans le Dialogue avec L'Enfance (AIDE), the Quebec equivalent of the Concerned Children's Advertisers, a national group which addresses children's issues.

ADS FIND THEIR WAY IN

Since 1980, the Quebec Consumer Protection Act has prohibited Canadian advertisers from advertising directly to children. Yet ads still reach Quebec children from broadcasts coming from U.S. stations, other Canadian provinces or specialty channels such as YTV, a Canadian youth specialty channel, if a home has cable or satellite service.

"A lot of parents don't even know this rule exists because they see kid-directed commercials from border stations," said Marrionne Diemer, director of marketing services at Hasbro Canada in Montreal and outgoing president of AIDE. "And it's definitely impacting a lot of advertisers."

Though AIDE is just beginning to plan its strategy to address the government, one initial option will be to recommend setting up an independent review committee to look at ads based on the existing law, much as the Consumer Protection office had done.

Or the government may be urged "to go back to what existed pre-1980," the mandatory screening system for all children's advertising, which is still in place for the rest of Canada, suggests Niquette Delage, director of Le Conseil des Normes de la Publicite, the Quebec division of the Canadian Advertisers Foundation that reviews children's advertising. This "pre-clearance" of ads is based on two codes: the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards and the Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children, which forms part of the conditions of a broadcast license. The codes set out rules such as not exaggerating what a product or service can do.

OPPORTUNITIES ARE LOST

"There is a lost opportunity in Quebec," said Susan Burke, director of public affairs for Concerned Children's Advertisers, explaining that since advertisers cannot advertise directly to children in Quebec, little commercial programming is created for children because there is little advertising to support it.

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