Weetabix has been ordered to scrap an interactive gaming app by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on the grounds that it “exploited children’s credulity and vulnerability”.
The app for iPhone, iPad and iPod, included a feature in which players had to scan a QR code on a packet of Weetos to prevent slogans from appearing during gameplay.
The ASA deemed that the prompts used “persuasive and negative” language which could influence children unfairly.
These included the phrases ‘Tired is not a good look for you. Why not eat something?’, and ‘What?! No Weetabix?! Why make things harder for yourself?’.
The ASA also pointed out that children were forced to scan the QR code every day to reset their character’s ‘energy bar’ and stop the prompts reappearing.
However Weetabix said that the app had been designed to be playable without a QR code, and that this only triggered one feature of the game.
It also said that the app did not have undue influence on a child’s behaviour outside the game, emphasising that it did not breach regulations preventing “direct exhortations” to children buy Weetabix or persuade their parents to buy the cereal.
But in upholding the complaint, the ASA said: “We considered it likely that children would ask their parents to purchase Weetabix in order that they could scan the QR code, and we were concerned that the frequency with which the prompts appeared would be likely to prompt children to ask their parents to purchase Weetabix on a frequent basis”.
However a further raft of complaints against Weetabix concerning games featured on the Weetos website and the website of children’s TV network Nickelodeon were not upheld by the ASA.
The agency did not agree with the complaint that in a number of cases the games did not sufficiently identify themselves as marketing tools, and deemed that no further action was needed.