Cereals giant Kellogg’s has breached advertising codes for the second time in four years after targeting kids with Coco Pops television advertisements during children’s shows such as Harry Potter.
Kellogg’s responded to the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) guilty ruling by blaming an “administrative error” for the ad having “accidentally” featured during shows primarily viewed by children.
The advertisement depicts animated individual Coco Pops forming the shape of a steering wheel and driving the trolley to the milk aisle, before leading the trolley to the cash register.
The ASB supported the complainant’s claims that the Kellogg’s ad breached the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI).
The code does not permit companies to advertise to children aged under 12 unless its products represent healthy choices consistent with established standards.
“The advertisement draws the viewer in to a fast-paced and exciting animated scene, drawing upon a child’s sense of imagination. These animations are highly evocative and are likely to attract the attention of children,” the complaint read.
“[The advertisement] has been aired during a great many daytime and weekend programs, including the following programs where children would represent 35 per cent or more of the audience.”
The complainant added: “We also note that Kellogg’s is likely to argue that the advertisement features and is aimed at the grocery buyer, however we submit that the primary focus of the advertisement would be to attract children given emphasis on the animated Coco Pops steering the trolley.”
The ad featured on TV during films such as Harry Potter, Harriet the Spy, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, We Bare Bears and The Avengers, with several broadcast during the school holidays.
The ASB determined that all programs were directed primarily to children under 12 with the exception of Harry Potter and The Avengers.
Kellogg’s has a history of testing the boundaries of the RCMI code.
In 2013 the company was ordered to remove a Coco Pops ad that featured cartoon characters which were deemed a deliberate addition to appeal to children.
In its response to the complaint, Kellogg’s argued there were “impossible” anomalies in some of the data which suggested the five-to-12-year-old demographic comprised 55 per cent of the audience for Dalziel & Pascoe, for example, rated M for mature audiences.
Kellogg’s said it would replace the advertisement with a revised version in the near future.
“Despite this content being deemed targeted to adults, Kellogg’s will now modify the [ad] to get it back on air as soon as possible as is required by the code,” Kellogg’s public affairs director Rebecca Boustead said.
“This is a very rare breach for us and we’re disappointed that it was the result of placement errors.”
Sydney University public health nutrition Professor Tim Gill told The New Daily he was suspicious of Kellogg’s claim that the placing of the ad had been “accidental”.
He said it was “quite the achievement” for the complaint against the Kellogg’s ad to have been upheld as cases were often dismissed, suggesting the ad must have been a “fairly obvious and indefensible” breach of the code.
“The big thing about TV ads is that it’s a dying form of marketing. But one area that does still hold up is ‘children’s’ because figures show children are still watching entertainment on TV more so than other devices,” he said.
“They (Kellogg’s) would be well aware that it’s far more effective to target children directly rather than parents. I’ve got to be suspicious about their argument, especially considering their past history.
“It seems they’ve picked out some anomalies to suggest the data is flawed.”
Nutrition Plus dietitian Melanie McGrice said it was “disappointing” Kellogg’s was not abiding by the code.
“And not only that, but they’re arguing against the ruling,” she said.
“It would be nice to see companies that create sugary treat foods to focus more on going over and above to make sure young children are protected from being influenced by this kind of advertising.”