Advice to make your HFSS ads egg-cel this Easter

With more ads for chocolate treats popping up each day in the run up to Easter, now seems like the perfect time to reiterate some egg-cellent tips to bear in mind when marketing HFSS products.  

For starters, HFSS products are high in fat, salt or sugar, based on nutrient profiling. If your ad is for a HFSS product, you need to comply with some additional restrictions. 

Understand what a HFSS product ad is

As you may expect, if an ad features an identifiable HFSS product (either alone or as part of a range), that will be a HFSS product ad subject to HFSS restrictions. But even the use of branding (i.e. a logo, colour, strapline) generally associated with an HFSS food could have the effect of promoting a HFSS product.  

For example, in a 2018 ruling, the ASA deemed an Easter themed section of the Cadbury website, and a downloadable storybook and activity pack to be HFSS products ads. This was not only because the ads contained images of identifiable HFSS Easter-themed products (both images and drawings), but because the ads also included the Cadbury logo and famous purple colouring.   

Don’t direct HFSS ads at under 16s 

HFSS ads are subject to targeting restrictions. As per Rule 15.18, HFSS product ads must not be directed at under 16s through the selection of media or context they appear in i.e. children’s media like a child’s magazine, nor any other media where under 16s make up more than 25% of its audience.  

The ASA considered if Mondelez’s webpage, activity pack and storybook were targeted appropriately. As the storybook and activity pack were specifically created for under 16s, and would be given to children, the CAP Code had been breached. This was because HFSS products ads (i.e. the downloadable content) had been directed at children through the selection of media they appeared in.  

Take a look at Food: HFSS Media Placement - ASA | CAP for more detailed information.  

Don’t feature licensed characters in HFSS ads for under 12s  

Additional restrictions apply where a HFSS ad directly targets pre-school or primary school children through its content. Specifically, the use of licensed characters and celebrities popular with children are prohibited (Rule 15.15) in such ads.  

For example, in 2018 the ASA considered a webpage featuring a Cadbury Peter Rabbit promotion, and decided Peter Rabbit was popular with under 12s, older children, and had broad appeal to other age groups too. Despite the webpage featuring a licensed character popular with children, the ASA found the ad was not targeted at under 12s through its content, as the rest of the webpage was directed at adults.  

So if you’re targeting under 12s through the content of your HFSS ads, remember the additional prohibitions on the use of licensed characters, and promotions too (see Rule 15.14).  

For further information, take a look at our Advice Online entry on Food: HFSS Overview. If you need bespoke advice on non-broadcast ads, feel free to send a query to our Copy Advice team, who will deliver a free response within 24 hours.  

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