Kellogg’s has been censured for breaching strict rules on targeting high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products at children.
A TV commercial for the cereal giant’s Coco Pops Granola has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, which upheld a complaint from the Obesity Health Alliance.
The TV ad, seen in January during children’s cartoon Mr Bean, was for an HFSS product, the OHA claimed. It was shown during a show principally directed at, or likely to appeal to, audiences below the age of 16.
However, Kellogg’s insisted Coco Pops Granola was not an HFSS product, and that the company had strict internal policies and processes to ensure its HFSS products were not advertised to children.
Kellogg’s said it understood the Coco Pops brand resonated with children. As a result, the supplier had in the past taken steps to use the brand “in a responsible manner”. This included reformulating original Coco Pops to be lower in sugar and introducing non-HFSS products such as the granola.
The TV ad made “clear and consistent” references to the granola throughout, according to Kellogg’s. It contained no reference to Coco Pops as an umbrella brand or to any other product in the range. The Coco monkey character was seen with the product throughout the clip, which focused heavily on the cereal shapes unique to the granola. The packaging, shown at the end of the ad, was different from that of other Coco Pops products.
The commercial was presented in such a way as to ensure compliance with the advertising code and demonstrate a responsible approach to advertising, the cereal maker insisted.
If the ASA were to find that the ad promoted an HFSS product, it would reduce take-up of the granola product, Kellogg’s added. This would be inconsistent with the government’s objectives on tackling unhealthy eating, and would discourage other suppliers from developing healthier products.
Nevertheless, the ads watchdog decided many adults and children were likely to “very strongly” associate the Coco Pops brand and monkey character primarily with original Coco Pops. At the time the ad was seen by the complainant, Coco Pops original was an HFSS product and the Coco Pops range was mainly HFSS.
Viewers would “closely associate” the commercial’s phrase “look at the milk: it’s turned all chocolatey” with original Coco Pops, said the ASA, while the shot of the cereal shapes was “not particularly easy to distinguish”. Also, the ad featured the same jingle used for all Coco Pops cereal, and the background colour of the packaging was the same bright yellow as that for all the brand’s lines.
The ASA ruled the Coco Pops branding was “significantly more prominent” than the granola; the focus of the ad was the Coco Pops brand rather than the product. It was therefore an HFSS product ad and must not be broadcast again in or adjacent to shows commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 16.
Kellogg’s said it was “disappointed” with the ASA’s decision. “We ensured throughout the advert that we were only promoting the Coco Pops Granola product, a cereal that can be advertised in children’s airtime,” said a spokeswoman for the cereal giant.
“It’s particularly surprising when a ruling from the television regulator Ofcom, published on Monday (6 August), confirmed that the same advert was not in breach of the advertising code.”
Since the ad was seen in January, Kellogg’s had reduced sugar in Coco Pops original by 40%, she added. “This means original Coco Pops now also meets the strict nutritional profiling for foods that can be advertised on children’s TV.”