Placement of “unhealthy” food advertisements come under heavy scrutiny

August 2018

Several ASA decisions published today highlight the continued focus by the ASA on advertising high fat, sugar or salt products (“HFSS”) to children. 

Advertising HFSS products is under heavy scrutiny with even London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, investigating a ban on such advertising in London to help tackle obesity.

KFC advertised its Krushems product on a phone box by a school. The CAP Code requires that HFSS products must not be directed at children through the selection of media or the context in which they appeared. Importantly, no advertising medium should be used to advertise a HFSS product if more than 25% of its audience were under the age of 16.

The ASA did find that this advert breached the CAP Code. Whilst the ASA does recognise that outdoor advertising will not generally breach the CAP Code as children under 16 do not amount to over 25% of the population this advert was too close to a school and therefore its audience would be mainly children.

Coco Pops

Kellogg’s also fell foul of a ASA decision in relation to its advert above which was shown during the children’s programme “Mr Bean”. Interestingly, the ASA readily acknowledged that the product itself was not a HFSS product. However, it was held that as the use of the Coco Pops brand and use of Coco the Monkey was prominent children would associate the advert with the brand Coco Pops rather than the specific granola product. The entire Coco Pops range contained HFSS products and therefore the advert breached the CAP Code.

In contrast McDonalds successfully defended two ASA complaints. The first involved advertising HFSS products on bus tickets which were aimed at the general population and therefore not aimed at an audience under the age of 16. The second advert was for its Happy Meals and aimed at children. The ASA reviewed the entire Happy Meal range and found that it was overall a non-HFSS product.

Placement of advertisements is no longer a simple issue. Obesity is high on the political agenda and complaints about HFSS products are now much more frequent. It is important to consider not only where the product will be advertised but also whether the product and its supporting product range is HFSS.

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.