THIS RULING REPLACES THAT PUBLISHED ON 8 AUGUST 2018. THE DECISION HAS BEEN REVERSED, MAKING THE COMPLAINT NOT UPHELD.
A TV ad for Coco Pops Granola, shown during the children’s programme ‘Mr Bean’ on 3 January 2018, began with a group of animated animals standing on each other’s shoulders trying to knock a coconut down from a tree. Coco the Monkey ran up to the hyena standing at the bottom, showed him a bowl of cereal and said “Coco Pops Granola, it’s so chocolatey, so crispy, and look at the milk, it’s turning all chocolatey. Mmm. So, want some?”. The hyena licked his lips as Coco’s friends shouted “Taste it, taste it!”. The hyena said “Chocolatey!” and grabbed the bowl from Coco, causing the other animals to fall off his shoulders into a big pile. One of them said “Where’s my breakfast!”, and then “Ow!” as a coconut landed on him. A voice-over concluded “Coco Pops Granola. Tasty fun for everyone” as Coco and all the animals were shown eating together in the background. A pack of Coco Pops Granola, a bowl and a jug of milk were shown in the foreground. Small on-screen text shown throughout most of the ad stated “Enjoy as part of a healthy diet and active lifestyle, 45g of Coco Pops Granola = 9% RI for sugar”.
The Obesity Health Alliance challenged whether the ad was an ad for a product that was high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS product) that was advertised in programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal to audiences below the age of 16.
Kellogg Marketing and Sales Company (UK) Ltd (Kellogg’s) confirmed that the product Coco Pops Granola, featured in the ad, was not an HFSS product. They said they took the Advertising Code seriously and had strict internal policies and processes in place to ensure the HFSS products in their range were not advertised to children.
They said the ad made clear and consistent references to the product throughout the ad, both visually and in the dialogue between characters, and in the voice-over. The ad did not contain any reference to the Coco Pops brand in isolation or to any other product in the range. Coco the Monkey was seen with the product throughout the ad, the ad focussed heavily on the shapes of the food in the bowl (which were unique to the granola product), and the packaging, which was shown at the end of the ad, was different to that of other Coco Pops products. They said the product was therefore clearly differentiated from other products in the Coco Pops range and they considered there would not be any confusion that the ad was for the granola product alone. They had deliberately presented the ad in such a way as to ensure compliance with the Code and demonstrate their responsible approach to advertising.
Kellogg’s said they had taken account of CAP guidance on differentiating HFSS product ads from brand ads when planning the ad. They highlighted that the guidance recognised that ads for non-HFSS products may use a brand-generated character or branding synonymous with a specific HFSS product, and also recognised the power of such brands to promote healthy alternatives to HFSS products.
At the time the ad was seen the Coco Pops portfolio had five different products. Two were non-HFSS and three were HFSS, amounting to a 40/60% split. However, Kellogg’s said they were reformulating Coco Pops original to reduce sugar by 40% in July 2018, which would mean that it would be non-HFSS going forward. As a result 60% of the products in the Coco Pops range would be non-HFSS from July 2018.
Kellogg’s said they understood that the Coco Pops brand resonated with children. It had a long heritage and substantial goodwill following significant investment over a number of decades. They had taken a number of steps to use the Coco Pops brand in a responsible manner. That included reformulating Coco Pops original and introducing new non-HFSS products such as the granola to the range, and using the Coco Pops equity to introduce healthier alternatives to children and their parents through their advertising and promotions. They believed that if the ASA was to find that the ad had the effect of promoting an HFSS product it would reduce take-up of the granola product, would be inconsistent with the Government’s objectives on tackling unhealthy eating, and would discourage advertisers from developing healthier product alternatives.
Clearcast said they had taken account of the relevant CAP guidance when reviewing the ad, and because the product shown in the ad was non-HFSS they had looked at the branding featured in the ad. They said that Coco the Monkey was a brand-generated character which was synonymous with Coco Pops, an HFSS product at the time the ad was cleared and seen by the complainant. Because Kellogg’s had launched several other products and was advertising them more frequently than Coco Pops, Clearcast had queried whether the Coco the Monkey character would still be synonymous with Coco Pops, and therefore HFSS foods.
The CAP guidance specifically referenced that an ad for a specific non-HFSS product that featured a brand-generated character synonymous with a specific HFSS product was unlikely to be regarded as an ad for an HFSS product. It also stated that the use of branding could be a powerful technique in promoting healthier options, but that where such techniques were synonymous with a specific HFSS product the ASA was more likely to apply HFSS product ad restrictions where reference to the non-HFSS product was incidental to the use of such techniques.
Clearcast had therefore reviewed the visuals and audio to reflect on whether the product advertised was incidental to the branding featured. They reviewed the use of the Coco the Monkey character, the packaging, product shots and whether children would be aware of the difference between Coco Pops Granola and Coco Pops. Coco the Monkey was featured, but not heavily as there were other characters included. Coco held the product mostly throughout the ad, so was heavily promoting Coco Pops Granola, and the product, which was significantly different to Coco Pops due to the moon and star shapes, was clearly shown. The packaging was not the standard cereal box used for other Coco Pops products but a flexible plastic pack. They therefore considered the product was very prominent and not incidental to the branding, meaning that both parents and children would be able to tell the difference between the advertised granola product and Coco Pops original cereal.
The BCAP Code required that HFSS product ads must not be broadcast around TV programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal to audiences below the age of 16. CAP Advertising Guidance titled “Identifying brand advertising that has the effect of promoting an HFSS product” laid out that the promotion of HFSS products might occur both directly (where an ad featured an HFSS product) and indirectly through the use of branding that was synonymous with a specific HFSS product, that could be through product-related branding or company or corporate branding more broadly.
The only product featured in the ad was Coco Pops Granola, which was a non-HFSS product, and we therefore noted that the ad did not feature an HFSS product. We therefore considered whether the ad had the effect of promoting an HFSS product through the use of branding.
Coco Pops was a well-established brand, and Coco the Monkey, which was used to advertise all the products in the range, was also well-established as a brand-generated character. We considered that many adults and children were likely to associate the Coco Pops brand and Coco the Monkey primarily with Coco Pops original cereal, which at the time the ad was seen by the complainant was an HFSS product. We considered it was therefore incumbent on Kellogg’s to take careful steps to ensure that, if ads for non-HFSS products in the range were directed at children, they did not have the effect of promoting Coco Pops original cereal or other HFSS products in the range.
The TV ad told the story of Coco the Monkey and his friends helping out some other animals who were struggling to find something for breakfast. A few seconds into the ad Coco told the animals about Coco Pops Granola, and showed them a bowl of the product, saying “Look at the milk, it’s turning all chocolatey”. A close-up showed the moon and star shapes, which were unique to the Granola product in the Coco Pops range, and the milk changing colour. The ad concluded with a voice-over which referenced Coco Pops Granola, and a pack shot of the product.
We considered that Coco Pops Granola was the focus of the ad throughout, including through the use of close-up shots of the product and the product pack (both of which were of a different appearance to other products in the range), and two references to “Coco Pops Granola” in the voice-over, including once by Coco. The brand name “Coco Pops” was also not used on its own. We noted that the ad drew attention to the milk “turning chocolatey”, which was a phrase used in ads in relation to Coco Pops original cereal and other HFSS products in the range, but given that it was self-evident that the Granola product had the same effect on milk, we considered its inclusion did not give greater prominence to the Coco Pops range branding generally than to the Granola product itself. We considered that as a result, it would be clear to both adult and child viewers that the product being advertised was Coco Pops Granola. We therefore concluded that the ad was not an HFSS product ad for the purposes of the Code and was therefore not subject to the restrictions prohibiting HFSS product ads from being shown around children’s programming.
On that point, we investigated ad (a) 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), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.