CAP’s new food rules: Q&A III

Brand Guidance

Our new restrictions on HFSS advertising in non-broadcast media come into effect on 1 July 2017. We have adopted a revised version of existing BCAP guidance, which is designed to help advertisers identify brand advertising that has the effect of promoting an HFSS product. The revised version of the guidance has also been adopted by BCAP, who will implement it at the same time as our new rules come into effect.

Why cover brand advertising?

Simply, if it has a close relationship to a specific HFSS product, it could promote it indirectly. We want to ensure that our new rules are effective in protecting children where there’s a reasonable likelihood an HFSS product is being promoted.

What do you mean by “brand advertising”?

Ads that feature products prominently allow the ASA to decide whether to apply the HFSS rules on the basis of that product’s nutrient profile. The guidance helps the ASA in instances where products don’t feature or they’re not clearly identifiable. The guidance takes a pretty broad view on what branding can be; it’s not just company logos. It applies to anything associated with individual products, ranges, companies or corporate entities.

What does it mean in relation to product references?

Ads featuring products or strongly product related branding are the main area of concern. Advertisers need to adopt a cautious approach.

  • If you feature an identifiable HFSS product, the ASA is highly likely to apply the restrictions. Similarly, if the ad features product branding that is synonymous with an HFSS product, but not the product itself, the ASA is highly likely to apply the restrictions.
  • If it’s a generic product that can’t be identified, you’ll have to satisfy the ASA that the range of products it relates to is mainly non-HFSS
  • Incidental references (something in the background on a supermarket shelf) that aren’t related to the theme of the ad are unlikely to render the ad an ad for those products.
  • The guidance doesn’t apply to non-HFSS product ads, but advertisers need to be careful where they use branding that relates to HFSS versions of the product or other products.
  • Where branding synonymous with a range of products appears, the ASA is likely to expect advertisers to demonstrate that the products in the range advertised are mainly (>50%) non-HFSS.

What about company branding?

Company brands usually have broader identities than being synonymous with individual products. However, they are often “synonymous with” a range or ranges of products they manufacture or sell. If the range or ranges are mainly HFSS, the guidance allows for the advertiser to demonstrate to the ASA that they have sufficient identity beyond the provision HFSS products; for example, by demonstrating a very close association with the provision of non-HFSS products or goods and services other than food and soft drink.

How will the guidance work in enforcement terms?

The ASA will have regard to the guidance when it considers complaints about ads where the product isn’t present or clearly identifiable to the audience.

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