Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) and Kellogg’s
Where: United Kingdom
When: 21 November 2018
Law stated as at: 1 December 2018
In August, the ASA ruled that Kellogg’s advert for Coco Pops Granola which featured the Coco Pops Monkey and friends was a breach on the new restrictions on advertising high fat salt and sugar (“HFSS“) products to children. The ruling was considered particularly harsh because Coco Pops Granola is not an HFSS product. However the ASA said that the use of iconic Coco Pops references including the Coco Pops Monkey, the audio logo tune and the tagline that the milk was “turning all chocolatey” meant that the advert was a brand advert for the Coco Pops range not the Coco Pops Granola product. Since the range itself is 60 percent HFSS, this meant that the advert was de facto an advert for an HFSS product and consequently showing the advert during children’s programming breached the rules.
The ruling was widely considered very harsh partly because the advert itself very clearly and prominently only showed product shots of Coco Pops Granola. No other Coco Pops variants were shown, which according to the guidance meant it should be treated as a product advert for Coco Pops Granola (a non-HFSS product), rather than a brand advert for the general Coco Pops range.
In addition, just two weeks before, Ofcom had ruled that the same content was acceptable as sponsorship because it did not breach the BCAP prohibitions on advertising HFSS products to children. This decision was largely reached because of the prominence of the Coco Pops Granola pack shots.
Kellogg’s appealed the original ruling and, very unusually, was successful in having it overturned. The new decision says since only the granola product is shown in the advert, this is in fact a product advert for a non-HFSS product and therefore may be shown during children’s programming.
Why this matters:
The ruling is important for a number of reasons. First, it reconfirms that the guidance is accurate and product adverts for non-HFSS products which are part of a mixed range may still be targeted at children. The reversal also means that the application of the BCAP Code to sponsorship opportunities and the application of the same code by the ASA to advertising is consistent again.
The ruling also provides reassurance for owners of equity brand characters which have been historically associated with HFSS products. It demonstrates (in line with the ASA ‘s public statements on this point) that these characters (which represent valuable intellectual property developed over many years) may be used to promote non-HFSS variants.
Finally, the ruling reinforces the government’s message that food manufacturers should be actively looking for opportunities to develop and promote non-HFSS variants, particularly in those categories which have historically been dominated by HFSS products. This support for the development of non- HFSS products is particularly reassuring to food manufacturers in light of the forthcoming consultations on additional restrictions on the advertising and promotion of HFSS products.