Four posts on Chewits’ “Chewie the Chewitsaurus” Facebook page, seen in January 2018:
a. A post published on 24 August 2017 featured a cartoon image of Chewie with brightly coloured balloons and bunting. Letters on the bunting spelled “GOOD LUCK”. The Chewits brand logo was in the corner. Text accompanying the image stated “Today’s the day! Celebrate your GCSE Results with Chewie. Click to like and share your exam success!”.
b. A post published on 4 September 2017 featured a cartoon image of Chewie next to stationery and a clipboard with the text “SEPTEMBER BACK TO SCHOOL” on it, and the Chewits brand logo in the corner. Text accompanying the image stated “Chewie is ready for a SWEET school year! Click LIKE and SHARE your back-to-school sweet treat ideas!”.
c. A post published on 13 September 2017 featured a cartoon image of Chewie holding an open book, next to large colourful text which stated “CELEBRATE ROALD DAHL DAY”, with the Chewits logo in the corner. Text accompanying the image stated “It’s Roald Dahl Day! Why not go and grab yourselves some ‘scrumdiddlyumptious’ Chewits treats? Click to LIKE and SHARE with Chewie!”.
d. A post published on 23 October 2017 featured a cartoon image of Chewie reading a book, next to shelves of books and the text “International School Libraries Month”, with the Chewits logo in the corner. Text accompanying the image stated “It’s #booktober! Here’s one from Chewie’s joke book: ‘What do you call a dinosaur with extensive vocabulary?’ …A thesaurus! LIKE and SHARE”.
The Children’s Food Campaign (Sustain) challenged whether ads (a), (b), (c) and (d) were ads for products that were high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS product ads) that were directed at children.
Cloetta UK Ltd said the posts only appeared on their Facebook page, and the campaign was aimed at parents and young adults with the core messages and placement focused on those groups; it was not developed to target under 16s. They provided statistics based on data from Facebook analytics which related to an aggregated 28-day overview of Facebook users who followed their Facebook page and were based on an overview of likes of the page. They said the figures could shift over the monthly period based on the number of individuals who ‘unliked’ the page or if they gained new followers. Facebook analytics accumulated data based on the information that its users provided, so it would be based on data collected from the pages of Chewits’ followers, including their profile ages, location and so on. That data was provided to Facebook by users themselves.
Cloetta said the data showed that the vast majority of visitors to the page consisted of adults: in July 2017, 81% of consumers who interacted with the page were 18 years of age or over; in January 2018 that figure had increased to 87%. Of the 13% of users who were aged under 18 in January 2018, a significant proportion were 16 and over. They said they did not have information about the percentage of internet users who were not logged into Facebook when they visited the page.
The CAP Code required that HFSS product ads must not be directed at children through the selection of media or the context in which they appeared. The four ads appeared on the Chewits Facebook page and featured “Chewie the Chewitsaurus”, a brand equity character associated specifically with Chewits. While the ads did not feature images of the product, they were easily identifiable as ads for Chewits, an HFSS product. The posts were therefore HFSS product ads for the purposes of the Code.
The ASA considered that consumers were unlikely to use Facebook or interact with advertiser’s Facebook pages unless they were signed in to their Facebook account. Businesses using Facebook were able to advertise to consumers through paid-for ads but also through posting non-paid-for content on their own Facebook pages. Those posts were ‘pushed out’ to the Newsfeeds of Facebook users who had liked or followed their page. Facebook users who had liked or followed the page of a business were therefore likely to see posts from that business in their Newsfeed and may also sometimes visit the Facebook page of the business and look through its content. Facebook users who had not liked or followed a businesses’ page might also visit the page.
A small percentage of Facebook users who had liked or followed Cloetta’s Facebook page were registered as under the age of 16. The ads would therefore have been ‘pushed out’ to some Facebook users who were registered as under 16, and visible on Cloetta’s Facebook page to users registered as under 16 who had not liked or followed the page. We noted that the ads had therefore been directed to some children aged under 16. The posts would also have been visible to the friends of those who had liked or shared the posts, which all four ads specifically encouraged, and we noted that the ads might therefore have been further pushed out to children under 16.
We considered that because the ads were for HFSS products Cloetta should have taken reasonable steps to ensure the ads were not directed at any children aged under 16.
We understood that businesses had three key tools available to them which they could use to restrict the audience of their page and individual posts, and to target posts to specific groups. Firstly, advertisers were able to set age restrictions to limit who could see and like their Facebook page, based on the registered age of the Facebook user. Secondly, when posting content on Facebook, advertisers were able to restrict the audience of a post by age, again based on the registered age of the Facebook user. Thirdly, advertisers were able to target their posts to the Newsfeeds of certain groups of people based on their interests (although that did not prevent people outside those interest-based groups from seeing the post on the advertiser’s own Facebook page).
We considered that because the Facebook page related specifically to an HFSS product Cloetta should have used the tool available to them to prevent Facebook users who were registered as under 16 from viewing the Chewits Facebook page. We understood that adding that age restriction would also prevent their posts from being seen by any users registered as under 16 (including if the post had been liked or shared by users registered as 16 or over). Additionally, because we were concerned that many younger users of social media misreported their age to appear older than they were, we also considered that Cloetta should have used the tool available to them to use interest based factors to ensure that the ads were only targeted to appear in the Newsfeeds of Facebook users who were aged 16 or over.
Because Cloetta had not used any of the tools available to them to restrict the audience of the posts and to target the posts to those aged 16 or over, we concluded they had not taken reasonable steps to target the ads appropriately. The ads were therefore in breach of the Code.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 15.18 15.18 HFSS product advertisements must not be directed at people under 16 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. No medium should be used to advertise HFSS products, if more than 25% of its audience is under 16 years of age. (HFSS product ad placement).
The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Cloetta UK Ltd to ensure they took reasonable steps in future to ensure that HFSS product ads were not directed to those under the age of 16. That included, for example, restricting the audience of their Facebook page (and therefore their posts also) to those users registered as aged 16 or over, and specifically selecting interest based factors to target their individual Facebook posts to the Newsfeeds of those aged 16 or over.