In Canada, there are rules for advertising to children. Except in Quebec, where all advertising to children under the age of 13 is prohibited under the Quebec Consumer Protection Act, advertisements in broadcast media directed at children under 12 years of age must follow a set of voluntary guidelines called the Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children. The Code does not pertain to ads broadcast on U.S channels. Compliance with the Code is a condition of licence for Canadian broadcasters.
All other types of advertisements aimed at children are covered by the general Canadian Code of Advertising Standards and Gender Portrayal Guidelines. Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) is the industry organization that administers all of these codes and deals with complaints from the public.
Complaints and Compliments
It’s important that consumers voice their opinions about advertising to the industry.
To comment on a print advertisement:
- Contact the magazine or newspaper in question and the company that owns the publication.
- For Canadian publications, you should also contact the Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), using the complaints form on their website. If you send a letter, you should enclose a copy of the offending advertisement.
To comment on a commercial on TV or radio:
- Contact the TV or radio station in question.
- You should also send your comments to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), using the complaint forms on their websites.
You should have the following information on hand when making a complaint about an ad on TV or radio: the station on which it was aired, the date and approximate time it aired, the name of the product and why you think the advertisement contravenes Canadian advertising codes.
To comment on advertisements for adult or teen-rated movies shown during children’s movies or TV:
- If the ad is shown at a theatre during a movie meant for a younger audience, complain to the theatre management.
- If the ad is shown on TV during programming meant for young children, you should contact the TV station in question. You should also send your comments to the Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), using the complaint forms on their websites.
To comment on commercials in movie theatres:
- If you object to sitting through a string of commercials in a theatre before the feature film starts, you can lodge a complaint with the theatre management.
To comment on the marketing of toys based on adult entertainment, such as mature or adult-rated movies or video games:
- If the advertisement is on television, contact the TV station in question.
- You should also send your comments to the Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), using the complaint forms on their websites.
- If the advertisement is in a magazine, contact the magazine or newspaper in question and the company that owns the publication. For Canadian publications, you should also contact the Advertising Standards Canada (ASC), using the complaints form on their website.
- As well, check your local toy store to see if it sells children’s toys that are based on adult entertainment. Send a letter to the store manager, and your local newspaper, outlining your concerns.
Don’t forget about positive feedback!
To comment on an online endorsement that does not disclose who paid for it:
- Contact the person making the endorsement, making sure they know that both Canada and the U.S., as well as many other jurisdictions, require online influencers to disclose who paid for the endorsement.
- Make a complaint to Advertising Standards Canada. Make sure you include a copy or screenshot of the misleading post or video (see www.take-a-screenshot.org for information on how to do this.)
- Marketers need to be complimented when they produce socially responsible, positive advertisements. The About-Face website features examples of advertisements that promote positive images of women and children.
Getting active at the grassroots level
One way to get active is to organize an anti-consumerism event in your school or community.
Host a Violent Toy Turn-In event at your school, church or community centre:
- Invite families in your community to turn in their violent toys, such as action figures, guns and other weapons. If you hold your event during the Christmas shopping season you can make it into a toy fair and invite neighbourhood toy stores to set up displays of non-violent toys and books.
Enlist the help of a local artist to create a sculpture from the toys that are turned in. Make sure to invite the media to cover your event.
Celebrate Buy Nothing Day with your school or Guide/Scout unit:
- The idea behind this international event is to encourage consumers to examine their spending habits, and to think about the effect of mass consumerism on the cultural and natural environment of the world.
Contact your local media and ask them to cover your activities. For more information, see the Buy Nothing Day lesson plan.
Stop commercialization in your school or school district:
- Work with your school’s parent and student councils and your school trustees to develop guidelines for commercialization in your school or district.
Make sure your local media is aware of your efforts. For more information, see the Making Your School a Commercial-Free Zone tip sheet.