ITALY: You won't see her in Italian TV ads

Ban on kids in commercials, one of 3,000 amendments meant to merely delay media Bill, is passed

The Straits Times
Saturday, December 6, 2003

ROME - How can you advertise a brand of nappies without showing a baby, or vaunt a new toy without a happy child playing with it?

Italian advertisers face these tough challenges after Parliament approved a new media law banning the use of children under the age of 14 in television advertising.

'What are we supposed to do? Use little dolls, or teenagers dressed up as children? Animation? This is a big problem,' said Ms Federica Ariagno, creative director at advertising firm McCann-Erickson.

The ban was slipped into a controversial media law adopted on Tuesday. It was one of more than 3,000 amendments made by the opposition to slow the Bill's passage, but by fluke, it passed.

The thought of Christmas without miles of footage of cute kids and their new toys has horrified advertisers and producers, who are mounting a fierce campaign to have the rule scrapped.

'We will do everything we possibly can to get rid of this strange and ridiculous measure, which seeks to create a world without children,' said Felice Lioy, head of UPA, the main Italian association of firms that advertise.

'It will hit companies that make children's products hardest but a lot of other firms could also face huge costs in rebranding and making new ads.'

Italian society is deeply attached to the image of the traditional family and beaming kids are ubiquitous not only in television commercials for products aimed at children, but also in advertisements for everything from pasta to cars and washing powder.

UPA says children appear in 40 per cent of all Italian TV commercials.

In the worst case scenario, the law could come into effect before Christmas, but a Communications Ministry official said TV spots starring children would probably run this holiday season: 'Christmas is safe - at least this year.'