Z znanjem do boljšega zdravja

Workshop on digital marketing to children

The environments in which we live have a significant impact on our choices. Marketing is an important determinant of exposure to risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs), of which children and adolescents are particularly sensitive.

Nowadays, the channels through which marketing and advertising take place are changing dramatically - traditional media are losing in importance, marketing and advertising is increasingly expanding into the rapidly developing digital world. Digital marketing (DM) includes personal data extraction and selling, targeted advertising, and creative techniques of emotional persuasion. The latter can distort our choices. Digital marketing is primarily targeted towards young people, who use digital media avidly and increasingly, while being largely unaware of ethically problematic techniques of many digital platforms and unprotected due to absence of appropriate framing of the DM. It is obvious that digital marketing is linked to all lifestyle factors that public health is dealing with. Multidisciplinary competence and participatory approach are needed. Joining forces of public health “siloses” is needed to define and tackle common issues more efficiently.

NIJZ and WHO Capacity building workshop 2017 on Digital marketing to children, available on the next link.

Methodological challenges in linking public health siloses was organized by the NIJZ, and the WHO Country Office for Slovenia. Aim of the workshop was to explore common methodological grounds of DM in different lifestyle areas and discuss possible common holistic approaches to tackle this increrasingly important commercial determinant of health.


The workshop was attended by public health experts from Slovenia, Slovakia, WHO Country Office in Slovenia, WHO Regional Office for Europe, EuroHealthNet, Ministry of Health of Slovenia, European Commission, The Open University UK, the Faculty of media in Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, and from Agency for communication networks and services of Slovenia (AKOS, and nongovernmental youth organization »No excuse« in Slovenia. In addition, public health experts from Austria provided useful written inputs. Lectures on principles of DM, legislative issues, presentation of experiences of the participating countries and possibilities for public health action were followed by round-table discussions on recommendations for further steps.

Participants emphasized the importance of immediate public health action to tackle DM to children, despite the fact that knowledge on the topic is scarce. Five key areas of action were identified by participants: ethics, governance and leadership, framing and regulation, capacity building and research. DM should be addressed at the global and national intersectoral level and common understanding and framing of the DM should be developed. More research results characterzing exposure and impact of DM to children are needed. Awareness of the general population, including children, parents, teachers, healthcare workres and decision-makers needs to be raised and their digital literacy improved. Lack of transparency on personal data manipulation and use of addictive techniques is ethically problematic especially in children, who are differentialy susceptible to such influences. Further identification of particular areas/techniques of digital media by which children are being exploited would be valuable. In the broader contex, other possible harms, related to digital media should be addressed, e.g. violence, and the process of changing social norms would be helpful. Existing legislative protection and its implementation, applying to traditional media, should be optimised and extended to digital media. Limiting data extraction from minors should be considered. Current revision of the EU Audiovisual services media directive is a good opportunity to address the problematic exposure of children and adolescents to DM.