Call for ban on junk food ads in games
January 22, 2008
HEALTH campaigners have called for a ban on junk food adverts placed in computer games played by children.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) has warned that companies might use product placement and ads within computer games to get around the ban on advertising during children's TV programmes.
And they believe that even though many games have age-restriction labels on them, they are often played by children who are younger than their supposed target market.
'In game' advertising has become an increasingly important part of marketing as younger audiences spend more time playing video games than in front of the TV watching programmes.
Electronics giant Sony has set up its own company dedicated to attracting ads in games, and Microsoft has bought a firm with a similar role. The in-game advertising market is forecast to be worth £1bn by 2010.
But the ads in some of the games has angered health campaigners. They include:
• A huge hoarding for Sprite in the Xbox 360 basketball game NBA Street Homecourt.
• An opportunity to order pizza from within the role-playing game Everquest II.
• A banner for Coca-Cola within Football Manager.
• Ads for sandwich chain Subway in Counter-Strike.
Ben McKendrick, spokesman for the BHF Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: "There needs to be a ban on all junk-food promotion in games. We have succeeded in removing these ads from children's television, but children spend so much time playing these games that this is another way that these companies get into the consciousness of the children.
"We realise that these games are supposed to be for an older audience, but we all know that children play these games at an earlier age than they are supposed to."
He added that the BHF had concerns about Subway because of the high salt and fat content of some of the company's products.
But a Subway spokeswoman said: "Counter-Strike is a computer game that is targeted at 18 to 34-year-old men, and not children."
Ads within computer games are regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority. Its spokesman said it would act to ban future sales and releases of games which contained ads that broke its guidelines, but that it would have no power to order the recall of sold discs.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "We're looking at this issue right now."