Two ads were investigated. We upheld in relation to ad (a) only.
Two poster ads for McDonald’s, seen on 24 July 2018:
a. The first poster, for the Cadbury Flake McFlurry and Mini McFlurry, featured the text “SUN’S OUT Funs out” and an image of the chocolate and raspberry flavours of the products in different sizes. The poster was displayed close to the entrance of a primary school.
b. The second poster, for McDonald’s Belgian Chocolate Honeycomb Iced Frappé, featured an image of the product. The poster was displayed close to a children’s nursery.
The complainant, who saw ad (a) placed close to a primary school and ad (b) placed close to a nursery, challenged whether the ads were for products that were high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS product ads) that were directed at children.
McDonald’s stated that the media owner, JCDecaux confirmed the featured McFlurry products in ad (a) were classified as HFSS ads and they had accepted that the bus stop at which the poster was located was 47 metres from the boundary of the primary school. They stated that McDonald’s had instructed JCDecaux to comply with McDonald’s policy not to place any posters displaying HFSS product ads within 200 metres of any school and that JCDecaux was solely responsible for the placement of the ad. This placement occurred due to an oversight by JCDecaux; it was mistakenly classified without the primary or secondary school proximity restriction. McDonald’s said that the poster was immediately removed following notice of the complaint and JCDecaux had assured McDonald’s that it would review its processes to prevent the mistake arising in future.
Whilst JCDecaux had placed ad (a) in error, McDonald’s accepted they were ultimately responsible for any misplacement of the ad. They said they understood from CAP’s HFSS Placement Guidance that with regards to outdoor posters and billboards, the audience was usually considered to be in proportion to the general population, unless skewed by the specific context of the ad location, such as the presence of a nearby primary or secondary school.
JCDecaux had confirmed to McDonald’s that the ad location had been assessed under the ‘Route’ audience measurement model for outdoor advertising, which utilises GPS travel survey data, a Traffic Intensity Model and Eye-tracking studies. The Outsmart Inventory Mapping System tool had then also been used to assess the physical characteristics data for each ad site together with national population statistics, before applying a reach and frequency algorithm to produce an estimate of the audience.
Based on this, JCDecaux had confirmed to McDonald’s that 20.63% of the total national population was under 16 and the unique all-adult reach of the relevant section of the road on which the primary school was situated was estimated at 83,527 adults per week, producing an estimated daily average of 11,932 adults per day. JCDecaux said that if those figures were extrapolated to include a proportionate number of under-16s in line with the national population, the daily total was 15,003 of which 3,101 were under 16. JCDecaux stated that the primary school had a total pupil population of 234 and assuming that the school population was added, this increased the under-16s representation figure to 21.84%.
JCDecaux also said that the average daily motor vehicle traffic count on the road stood at 18,372, the vast majority of which was expected to comprise commuting adults, and therefore, as 93% of the total reach was from a vehicular audience, so the under 16 percentage was likely to be substantially over-stated at 21.84%.
McDonald’s stated that this suggested that the ad did not breach the Code because they had been led to believe that the statistics were based on evidence obtained from robust sources and measurement-processes available to the outdoor advertising sector and therefore, notwithstanding the mistaken placement near to a primary school, the percentage of under-16s making up the audience for the ad was still likely to be substantially less than 25%.
With regards to ad (b) McDonald’s stated that JCDecaux acknowledged that the ad was placed 95 metres away from a nursery. However, the site was not within 100 metres of a primary or secondary school. JCDecaux informed McDonald’s that nurseries were not included in the Outsmart database used by the outdoor advertising industry to search for proximity to schools, so there was no breach of the industry guidance.
McDonald’s said that it was possible the database omitted nurseries because it may have been based on the likelihood of pupil numbers at nurseries being low enough to be unlikely to affect the percentage of total consumers of the advert who were under 16 to a material extent. They provided statistics obtained from JCDecaux which were similar to those provided in relation to ad (a), establishing audience figures of under-16s which was below 25%. They considered that the ad therefore did not breach the CAP Code.
JCDecaux confirmed that ad (a) was placed 47 metres from the primary school boundary and the placement prohibition was not picked up by their system. With regards to ad (b) they confirmed that the ad was not placed within 100 metres of a primary or secondary school and that day nurseries fell outside the Outsmart database.
Upheld in relation to ad (a) only
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, and that no medium should be used to advertise HFSS products if more than 25% of its audience was under the age of 16. Ad (a) promoted the Cadbury Flake McFlurry and Mini McFlurry and ad (b) promoted the Belgian Chocolate Honeycomb Frappe. Each of those products were HFSS products, and both the ads were therefore HFSS product ads for the purposes of the Code.
Ad (a) was located at a bus stop within 100 metres of a primary school. The ASA acknowledged that McDonald’s had provided estimated audience figures that around 21.84% of the audience for ad (a) was under 16. Although this indicated it was possible that less than 25% of the audience were under-16, we noted that this was an estimated figure only and that the figures had been obtained by McDonald’s in response to the ASA’s investigation rather than forming the basis for placing the ad at the site. JCDecaux and McDonald’s had acknowledged that the ad had been placed at the site in error because it was placed within 100 metres of a primary school when the standard approach taken by the outdoor ad industry was to not place ads for HFSS products within 100 metres of a primary or secondary school during term time. McDonald’s had also required all of its media owners not to place HFSS product ads within 200 metres of schools.
Notwithstanding the estimated audience figures provided by JCDecaux, we were concerned that the proximity of the poster to the school was within 100 metres of the school gates and that meant that the audience of the ad would likely be significantly skewed towards under-16s and because of that it was directed at children through the context in which the ad appeared. We concluded that the placement of ad (a) breached the Code.
With regards to ad (b), while the poster appeared within 100 metres of a nursery, it was not placed within 100 metres of a primary or secondary school, and we noted that sites located near to nurseries were not considered unsuitable to carry HFSS ads under the standard approach taken by the outdoor ad industry. We understood that in general nurseries were attended by a smaller number of children than primary and secondary schools and that meant the audience for the ad was unlikely to be significantly skewed towards under-16s. We therefore considered that the ad did not directly target children under 16 through the context in which it appeared and concluded that the placement of ad (b) did not breach the Code.
Ad (a) 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).
We also investigated ad (b) under 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), but did not find it in breach.
Ad (a) must not be displayed again in close proximity to a primary or secondary school. We told McDonald’s to ensure that they took measures in future to ensure that HFSS product ads were not directed at children under 16, including that they were not displayed in close proximity to a primary or secondary school.