What are CAP Codes and BCAP Codes?

The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) applies to all advertisements and programme sponsorship credits on radio and television services licensed by Ofcom.

What are the changes to CAP Codes?

On 2 January 2018 Code rules 4.8 and 4.13 were added to the CAP Codes and BCAP Codes respectively. The new rules (CAP Codes rule 4.8 and BCAP Code 4.13) state that ads should not portray or represent anyone who is, or seems to be, under 18 years old in a sexual way. This does not apply to ads 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.

The Advertising Standards Authority has stated that the Codes do not prevent marketers from using images of children but they should do so in a socially responsible manner.

When assessing ads the ASA will consider whether models seem to be younger than 18, as well as their real age. It is not acceptable to present models in a sexual way if they could appear to be under 18, even if they are over 18.

In March 2015, the ASA upheld a complaint about an image of a model in an ad for a thong bodysuit. The ASA considered that, whilst the model was 20 years old, she had a youthful appearance in the ad and some consumers were likely to regard her as being younger than 16. As the model’s expression and pose were considered sexual in nature, the ad could be seen to sexualise a child and was so was found irresponsible in relation to CAP Codes (ASA Case: American Apparel (UK) Ltd. 18 March 2015).

If a model could appear to be under 18, marketers should consider the way the model is presented to ensure that they are not done so in a sexual way. The CAP codes will take the clothing, make up, pose and gaze of models may be taken into consideration, alongside any text.

Sharon Playford is our lead lawyer for advertising and other media law matters. If you have any questions concerning CAP Codes or BCAP Codes or on your next advertising campaign please get in touch.