A TV ad for McDonald’s Restaurants, broadcast on ITV2 at 1:50 pm on Saturday 15 August 2020 during the film Nancy Drew, featured an image of a McDonald’s Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese burger, and the voice-over, “The Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese is back. A timeless classic. Doubled”. The ad was cleared by Clearcast with an ‘ex-kids’ scheduling restriction, which meant that it should not be shown in or around programmes made for, or specifically targeted at, children, because it featured a product that was high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS).
IssueThe complainant, who believed that the ad for an HFSS product had been broadcast during a programme that was directed at or of particular appeal to children, challenged whether the ad was appropriately scheduled.
ITV Broadcasting Ltd responded that the film Nancy Drew was neither targeted at nor principally directed towards children. They said they had assessed the evidence of both the commissioning intention of the film and the Nancy Drew books on which the film was based. They concluded that it would be more likely to appeal to teenagers over the age of 16 years than those under 16. They further explained that they had assessed the content of the film, which included relatively adult themes such as murder, kidnapping and psychological and physical attacks, and concluded that it was not principally directed at or commissioned for under 16s. They said that they had shown the film four times in 2020, including on the date the ad was seen. They provided Broadcaster’s Audience Research Board (BARB) data from those broadcasts which showed that under-16s were consistently under-represented in the audience, and was therefore below the threshold at which the film would be considered to appeal particularly to children. From that data, combined with their assessment of the film’s content and commissioning intention, they concluded that it was not commissioned for, principally directed at, or of particular appeal to viewers under the age of 16.
McDonald’s responded that the available evidence showed that the film was not of particular appeal to under 16s, or commissioned for or principally directed towards that audience. They believed that for a film produced outside the UK for theatrical release, rather than commissioned for television, that the most relevant data to consider was objective audience data from previous broadcasts of the film.
The BCAP Code required that HFSS product ads must not be broadcast around TV programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 16. The McDonald’s Double Quarter-Pounder Cheeseburger was an HFSS product, and we therefore considered that Clearcast’s ex-kids restriction was appropriate. We therefore considered whether the ad had been broadcast in accordance with that scheduling restriction.
We considered whether Nancy Drew was commissioned for or principally directed at audiences below the age of 16 years. The film was based on the Nancy Drew books about a famous teenage protagonist who solved mysteries, and that the cast consisted largely of older teenagers. The series of novels on which the film was based dated back to the 1930s and although we acknowledged that some of the intended audience would be under 16, we considered it was also directed at adults and families who would have been aware of the books and previous iterations of the franchise.
In addition, the BARB data provided by ITV demonstrated clearly that the broadcast of the film on the date that the ad was shown, and the previous three broadcasts of the film, had not been of particular appeal to audiences below the age of 16. We therefore concluded that the film was not directed at or of particular appeal to under-16s and that ITV had not scheduled the ad inappropriately.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules
These products may not be advertised in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 16:
food or drink products that are assessed as high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) in accordance with the nutrient profiling scheme published by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on 6 December 2005. Information on the nutrient profiling scheme is now available on the Department of Health website at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-nutrient-profiling-model (Scheduling of television and radio advertisements), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary