Junk Food Ad Battle is Heating Up

July 2018

The Advertising Standards Agency has today published three decisions against food manufacturers in respect of advertisements which have been held to breach the CAP Code. The ASA has warned advertisers not to take “easy options” when advertising high fat, salt and sugar (“HFSS”) products to under 16’s.

The decisions upheld complaints made against Mondelez (owner of Cadbury), Cloetta UK (manufacturer of Chewit sweets) and Swizzels Marlow (manufacturer of Squashies) that their adverts breached Rule 15.18 of the CAP Code which provides:-

“HFSS product advertisements must not be directed at people under 16 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear.  No medium should be used to advertise HFSS products, if more than 25% of its audience is under 16 years of age.​”

The decisions can be accessed via the following links:-

https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/swizzels-matlow-ltd-a18-410958.html

https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/mondelez-uk-ltd-a18-446273.html

https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/cloetta-uk-ltd-a18-410957.html

The ASA decisions demonstrate that advertisers need to take care when constructing an advertising campaign for a HFSS product so as to ensure its compliance with Rule 15.8. The following key points can be taken from the decisions:-

  1. When advertising on social media ensure that appropriate age restrictions are set to limit who can see and like the page.
  2. When posting on social media restrict the audience by age and target all posts where possible to certain groups that are over the age of 16.
  3. If advertising on content that is downloaded by users from your website be conscious as to whether the ultimate user of that content could be under the age of 16 even if the user of the website would be an adult.
  4. You cannot simply rely upon self-declarations of ages from users on websites or Apps particularly if it is possible for a user to re-enter information after an ineligible date of birth.
  5. Be careful when describing an App in the App store to ensure that it is not aimed at under 16s if that App is then going to be used as a platform to advertise HFSS products.

There are numerous online tools that can be used to try and limit the audience of an advert to over 16. Whilst using those tools to try and limit your audience will not guarantee that the advert is CAP Code compliant it will assist you should a complaint be made to the ASA.

This update was prepared by HGF Legal Director Tom Nener.  If you would like further advice on this or any other matter please contact Tom or your usual HGF representative, alternatively visit our Contact Page to get in touch with your nearest HGF office.