Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Not upheld.
A poster ad for Sarson’s Malt Vinegar that appeared on the side of a bus, seen in November 2019, included an image of three children in school uniform sat on a beach sharing two portions of chips. A close-up image of a bottle of Sarson’s Malt Vinegar appeared in the bottom right-hand corner of the ad. Text next to the bottle stated “THEY’RE THE FIRST TASTE OF FREEDOM SO GO ON, RESPECT YOUR CHIPS”.
The complainant challenged whether the ad breached the Code because: 1. it condoned poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children; and
2. it tried to sell to children by directly appealing to emotions or suggesting that the advertised product somehow conferred superiority.
1. & 2. Mizkan Euro Ltd t/a Sarson’s said that the ad was for Sarson’s Malt Vinegar rather than chips, and that was reflected in the phrase “RESPECT YOUR CHIPS”, which they said was a reference to putting vinegar on chips. They understood the ad could have the effect of marketing chips and had therefore taken precautions with regard to targeting. They said the ad was displayed in seaside towns and had not been placed within 100 metres of a school. Sarson’s said the content of the ad was intended to reflect adult nostalgia about the freedom they felt when they reached an age where they could leave school at lunchtime. That was reflected in the presentation of the ad and the claim “THEY’RE THE FIRST TASTE OF FREEDOM”.
Sarson’s confirmed that the teenagers used in the ad were over 12 years of age and said they were intended to appear to be over 16. They said the quantity of chips being eaten was relatively modest – two portions between three people – and the ad did not suggest that eating chips was something that should be done regularly, or that doing so would be a healthy habit or lifestyle. They did not believe the ad appealed directly to children’s emotions or suggested that chips or vinegar conferred superiority.
1. & 2. Not upheld
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must not condone or encourage poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children. It also stated that ads must neither try to sell to children by directly appealing to emotions such as pity, fear or self-confidence nor suggest that having the advertised product somehow conferred superiority; for example, making a child more confident, clever, popular or successful. The ad featured an image of three teenagers in school uniform eating chips alongside the claim “THEY’RE THE FIRST TASTE OF FREEDOM SO GO ON, RESPECT YOUR CHIPS”.
The ASA considered the ad was likely to be understood by both adults and children as a reference to the autonomy that children gained as teenagers; for example the autonomy to be able to leave school and buy food with their friends. Although chips were a food that was high in fat, salt or sugar (an HFSS food), we considered the ad did not show them being consumed in excessive quantity, as two portions were being shared between three people.
We considered that while the ad suggested that chips should be ‘respected’ by adding Sarson’s Malt Vinegar it did not appeal directly to children’s emotions or suggest that having Malt Vinegar on chips conferred respect or superiority on a child, nor that chips and vinegar should be consumed habitually. We therefore concluded the ad did not have the effect of condoning or encouraging poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children. We also concluded that the ad had not tried to sell a food to children by directly appealing to their emotions or suggesting that having the advertised product somehow conferred superiority.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 15.11 15.11 Marketing communications must not condone or encourage poor nutritional habits or an unhealthy lifestyle in children. (Diet and lifestyle), 15.6 and 15.16.1 15.16.1 Marketing communications must neither try to sell to children by directly appealing to emotions such as pity, fear or self-confidence nor suggest that having the advertised product somehow confers superiority; for example, making a child more confident, clever, popular or successful. (Pressure to purchase), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.