As you probably know, the current F&B Code covers advertising and marketing communication for any food or beverage products, other than alcoholic beverages, and applies to all advertisers, regardless of whether they are a member of the AANA or not. When it comes to advertising directed primarily to children, the F&B Code with the AANA Children’s Advertising Code together provide a range of protections. These Codes are part of a greater system of advertising protections for children, which includes the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI) and the Quick Service Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children (QSRI).
As of 1 June 2019 the evolution of the F&B Code will ensure that the requirements contained in the RCMI and the QSRI will apply to all advertisers, not just those who are signatories to those initiatives currently.
This month we’ll look at three rulings from the Ad Standards Community Panel concerning complaints about food advertising being aimed at children.
Kellogg’s LCMs bars
Issue: RCMI 1.1 – Advertising Message AFGC
Result: NOT IN BREACH
This Free to air TV ad, features children in a tree house hoisting a dog in a basket to join them. The tree house has a sign saying ‘no grown ups’. A woman is standing below the tree house with a box of Kellogg’s choc chip LCMs which she opens and individual puffs of rice and chocolate chips are seen floating up into the air towards the tree house. The rice forms into a bar that appears in the hand of one of the children who looks at it with amazement. A voiceover and a message at the end says ‘Light up their afternoons with the awesomeness of puffed rice’.
Complainants’ concern were that the ad was aimed at children and for a product that was not a healthier choice – in breach of the RCMI which Kellogg’s is a signatory to.
The Panel noted that the ad was filmed from the perspective of a grandmother watching her grandchildren play in the background. While the theme of playing in a treehouse may appeal to children, the overall theme of a grandmother watching her children play would be appealing to older audiences. The Panel also considered that the actress Benita Collins would be recognisable to adults who remember her from their own childhood and unlikely be recognised by children under 12. The overall theme of the ad was nostalgic and focussed on the experience of the grandmother, a theme which was not directed primarily to children under 12.
Next the Panel considered the language of the ad and found the phrase ‘light up their afternoons with the awesomeness of puffed rice’ was directed primarily to the grocery buyer. The Panel considered that some wording such as the word ‘awesomeness’ and the sign which says ‘no grown ups’ may be attractive to children, however this wording also adds to the nostalgic effect of the ad and are equally directed to adults.
The RCMI also requires that the ad must not appear in any media where the child audience is over 35%. The ad in this instance had appeared during the Australian Open, ‘Big Bang Theory’, ‘My Kitchen Rules’, ‘the Big Bash League’, ‘House Rules’, and ‘American Ninja Warrior’ however these programs are equally attractive to teenagers and adults and are not directed primarily to children under 12. The Panel found that the ad did not breach the AFGC RCMI and dismissed the complaint.
Read the report here.
Issues: Food and Beverage Code 2.2 – healthy lifestyle / excess consumption. Food and Beverage Code (Children) 3.2 encourage excess consumption and 3.5 pester power.
Result: NOT IN BREACH
This Facebook ad features a girl in a garden holding up a tin of Cadbury Creme eggs that has been personalised with a name. The message above the image states ‘Easter’s just around the corner! Make it one to remember with our Personalised CADBURY CREME EGG Chocolate Gift Tin, available exclusively at Myer! Just $19.99”
Complainants’ concern were that the ad was aimed at children for an excessive amount of discretionary food and was also encouraging kids to pester parents to buy the item.
The AANA Food and Beverages Advertising and Marketing Communications Code – Practice Note provides that: “In testing whether an advertising or marketing communication encourages excess consumption through representation of products or portion sizes disproportionate to the setting portrayed, or by any other means contrary to prevailing community standards, the Panel will consider whether members of the community in the target audience would most likely take a message condoning excess consumption.”
The chocolate is shown in a personalised egg shaped tin, and it is generally considered that such novelty items are often shared amongst others, particularly during periods such as Easter. There is no suggestion of frequency of consumption and there is no one seen consuming the product. The Panel considered that the ad did not encourage excess consumption.
To be considered under Section 3 of the Food and Beverage Code the ad must be found to be directed primarily to children (14 years and under) and for a children’s product. The Panel considered the themes, language and visuals and found it was not targeted towards children. The language used in the advertisement, specifically the phrase ‘Make it one to remember”, is targeted towards adults/parents, rather than children. The ad was displayed on Facebook, a medium which requires users to be 13 to sign up.
The Panel considered in this case that the ad was attractive to a broad audience and was not clearly directed in the first instance to children under 14 therefore Section 3 of the Food Code did not apply.
Read the report here.
Kellogg’s Coco Pops
Issues: Food and Beverage Code 2.1 (b) – Contravenes community standards Food and Beverage Code 2.2 – healthy lifestyle / excess consumption Food and Beverage Code (Children) 3.2 encourage excess consumption. RCMI 1.1 – Advertising Message AFGC – Advertising Message.
Result: IN BREACH
This Free to air ad from 2017 features a box of Kellogg’s Coco Pops in a shopping trolley which bursts open, the Coco Pops fly out, form a steering wheel, drives the trolley through an aisle, transforms into a hand which takes a container of milk from the shelf and places it in the trolley. The Coco Pops transform back in to a steering wheel, drives to the checkout and goes back into the box. A woman at the checkout reaches to take the milk and Coco Pops out of the trolley to pay for them, followed by an image of milk being poured in to a bowl of Coco Pops. A male voiceover says, “Coco Pops and milk. Just like a chocolate milkshake. Only crunchy”.
A minority of the Panel felt that the magical qualities of the cereal in combination with the music creates a mystical fantasy scenario that, in conjunction with a popular children’s product, would have strong appeal to children. For this reason, the minority of the Panel felt that the ad was directed primarily to children. The majority of the Panel however considered that the ad was attractive to a broad audience and was not clearly directed in the first instance to children under 12. The Panel noted that the animated cereal returns to collect milk and considered that this is in conjunction with the depiction of a woman grocery shopping was the primary focus and not of primary appeal to children. There is an adult voiceover and no call to action to children. The overall theme, visuals and language used were of appeal to children of all ages and to adults and the Panel found that the ad was not directed in the first instance or mainly to children under 12.
The Board noted that as, the ad was broadcast in programs including Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (G) on Channel 9, Harriet the Spy (PG) on Channel 9, Little Big League (PG) on Channel 9, We Bare Bears (PG) on GO, that were directed primarily to children under 12, the RCMI applied.
The Panel established that Coco Pops is a product able to be advertised directly to children, complying with the nutritional standards Kellogg committed to under the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative.
The Panel noted that under s1.1b of the RCMI, the ad must reference, or be in the context of, a healthy lifestyle, designed to appeal to Children through messaging that encourages: i. Good dietary habits, consistent with established scientific or government standards; and ii. Physical activity The Board noted that there is a small disclaimer on screen that states “enjoy as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle.” The Board considered that the disclaimer is very small and is not on screen for a long period of time. The Board noted that the use of text in this way is unlikely to draw the attention of children to the message and would be unlikely to be able to be read by young children.
The Panel considered that the image of milk and the on screen text did not amount to messaging that encourages good dietary habits. The action of a trolley moving magically around the shop in conjunction with the on screen text does not amount to messaging that encourages physical activity. Based on the above, the Panel found that the ad did not meet the messaging requirement of the RCMI and breached the RCMI.
Read the report here.
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