Who: Mondelez UK Limited t/a Cadbury (Cadbury), the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Children’s Food Campaign (Sustain)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 6 March 2019
Law stated as at: 8 April 2019
The ASA has ruled against a number of Cadbury’s adverts which promoted the popular Freddo chocolate bar by deciding that some of the adverts were for products that were high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) and directed at children.
The adverts consisted of the following:
- a poster ad featuring an image of Freddo the Frog with the title ‘Freddo and the Missing Hop‘. The poster also contained text stating “PARENTS, SEARCH ‘MISSING HOP” FOR THE FULL ADVENTURE www.cadbury.co.uk/freddo“. This poster was displayed at a bus stop near to a primary school;
- the website www.cadbury.co.uk/freddo, which featured branding, a comic book and promotions;
- a promotions webpage on www.cadbury.co.uk/freddo, which required age verification to enter. The page offered the chance to “WIN BIG ADVENTURES WITH FREDDO & FRIENDS“;
- a downloadable comic book titled ‘The Missing Hop’, which featured an image of Freddo the Frog;
- an audiobook version of ‘The Missing Hop‘;
- a YouTube video titled ‘Freddo meet Freddo – UK‘, where the cartoon Freddo interacted with a chocolate version of the character; and
- a second YouTube video titled ‘The Missing Hop‘ which included the caption “Parents, search the ‘Missing Hop’ for the full adventure“.
The Children’s Food Campaign (Sustain) challenged whether these adverts that were for HFSS products were being directed at children through the context in which they appeared.
Cadbury contended that the adverts were not focused on children under 16, and the website was targeted at adults and parents to enjoy with their children. Cadbury argued that the comic book was not a HFSS advert as it did not include any Cadbury branding and it was aimed at parents who would read the comic with their children.
In relation to the poster that was displayed near the primary school, Cadbury stated that this was poster had been placed there in error. The poster was removed and Cadbury stated that it, alongside JCDecaux (the owner of the poster site), would take steps to ensure this would happen again.
The ASA ruled that a), b), d) and e) above were in breach of the CAP Code. The CAP Code states that no medium should be used to advertised HFSS products where more than 25% of the audience is under 16 years old. The YouTube videos and the promotions webpage were judged not to be in contravention of the Code. The ASA used Cadbury’s YouTube channel data to determine that the likely demographic of the audiences of the videos. The ASA noted that while less than 25% of the subscriber base were aged under 18, it was not possible to know whether less than 25% of the overall audience was over the age of 18 or not. This is because videos were watched by users that were not logged in or unregistered. Nonetheless, the ASA decided that these viewers would not create a substantial difference to the channel’s viewing demographic. The promotion with prizes for the family and restrictions on age of entry was found to be acceptable as it did not target children.
Why this matters
The ruling serves as a good reminder of the importance of retaining audience figures. Despite the limitations in using YouTube audience data (e.g. children often watching YouTube videos on their parents’ accounts), the ASA accepted that the audience data for Cadbury’s channel indicated the likely audience the videos were meant to target. The ASA has frequently taken this approach to age targeting online.
The ruling also serves as a reminder of how characters associated with HFSS products (which may carry a large amount of brand equity) must be used with care. In this case, the presence of Freddo the Frog meant that these materials were adverts, and consequently adverts for an HFSS product. This is the case even when the materials are not obviously adverts, for example, the comic books and audiobooks.