ASA Ruling on Swizzels Matlow Ltd
Swizzels Matlow Ltd
29 August 2012
Internet (on own site)
Food and drink
Number of complaints:
Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both were Upheld (but one in part only).
A website for a confectionary manufacturer, www.swizzels-matlow.com, featured a virtual area called "Swizzels Town", in which a user could navigate between various locations representing different products. The areas included games, photographs and videos. The website also featured a "Scooby Doo" section, which included games and information on Scooby Doo branded products.
The Children's Food Campaign (Sustain) objected that:
1. the website encouraged poor nutritional habits in children; and
2. the website was irresponsible because it used a licensed character to promote sweets to children.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
1. Swizzels Matlow Ltd (Swizzels) said the "Swizzels Town" section of their website contained a variety of information about their company, products and their manufacture and in no way was intended to encourage poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children or excessive consumption of confectionary. The website was designed to reflect the retro brand appeal of the individual sweet brands. They said many of their products were family orientated and many of their consumers were adults. They asserted that the website and the "Swizzels Town" section on it were not targeted at children but rather a family audience. Furthermore, they said many adults played online computer games, including those of the type featured within "Swizzels Town".
2. The Scooby Doo area was to support a product range featuring Scooby Doo. The games and the puzzles were not designed with the intent of encouraging either purchase or excessive consumption of the products and Swizzels did not believe that their use of the licensed character irresponsibly promoted sweets to children.
1. Upheld (in relation to the Cola Capers section only)
Sustain believed that the "Swizzels Town" section of the website was designed to appeal to children. In support of this they pointed towards child-friendly content on the website including: videos, downloads, pictures and games. Sustain believed that children interacting with the site were more likely to eat the promoted products and to do so more frequently and in greater amounts than if they did not.
Swizzels Town was an interactive part of the website that users could navigate and explore and in doing so access product information, videos, galleries, games and downloadable content. This part of the website was bright and colourful, in a cartoon-like style. The downloadable content included colouring-in materials, word searches and printable party invitations. The in-browser games included catching falling sweets into a sweet bag, controlling a space craft through a screen of bubbles, matching pairs of sweets and collecting cola bottles in a maze. When moving between sections of Swizzels Town a full-screen animation of a child eating a "Drumstick" lollipop was shown.
We considered that the majority of the content in Swizzels Town did not encourage either an increase in consumption of sweets or any other poor nutritional habits. Although sweets understandably featured on the website, especially in the videos and product information content, there was no encouragement in these areas for children to eat more sweets. The interactive games in Swizzels Town included one where the user collected falling sweets into a large bag. The sweets were mostly Rainbow Drops though some larger sweets also featured. However, we considered that the game was not particularly long and therefore the total number of sweets accumulated was not particularly high or likely to encourage or condone poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children.
The game on the cola bottle section of Swizzels Town stated, "COLA CAPERS. Cheeky children visiting the factory have scattered Cola Bottles all around the corridors - you must rush round and collect them all while avoiding the angry parents. Collect all the Cola Bottles to move onto the next room in the factory. There are 3 rooms. Good Luck!" Over three levels the game's character could collect almost one hundred cola bottle sweets. If the character was caught by the "angry parents" they would lose a life. We considered that the game, which was relatively long in duration, was aimed at young children and condoned eating a large number of sweets whilst hiding this fact from one's parents. We therefore concluded that the Cola Capers game irresponsibly encouraged poor nutritional habits and an unhealthy lifestyle in children. Because of this section only, we concluded that the ad had breached the Code on this point.
On this point the website breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 15.11 (Food and soft drink product marketing communications and children).
The website contained a Scooby Doo section that featured images of Scooby Doo branded sweets. This section also contained a product information page providing more details on the branded products and two Scooby Doo themed games; a "Find hidden sweets" game and a "Mystery word search". Although Swizzels stated that many adults played online games, because these games were not particularly difficult or sophisticated, we considered that they were targeted at a younger age group, specifically primary-school children.
Code rule 15.15 stated, "... Except those for fresh fruit or fresh vegetables, food advertisements that are targeted directly at pre-school or primary school children through their content must not include licensed characters or celebrities popular with children". In light of the use of cartoon characters popular with primary-school children, the child-friendly interactive games and the Scooby Doo section's placement on a website that was, through its content, aimed at young children, we considered that this section of the website was aimed at primary-school children. We therefore concluded that the website breached the Code.
On this point website breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 15.15 (Licensed characters and celebrities).
The sections of the website investigated and found to be in breach of the Code must be amended or withdrawn.