A video on demand (VOD) ad for Dairylea, seen on ITV Hub, All 4 and My 5 in August 2021, featured two girls hanging upside down from a 5-a-side football goal post and having a conversation about where food went when you hang upside down. One of the girls opened a Dairylea Cheese Triangle and proceeded to eat it, whilst hanging upside down.
IssueFourteen complainants challenged whether the ad condoned or encouraged unsafe behaviour that could be dangerous for children to emulate.
Mondelez UK Ltd said the intention of the ad was to show parents allowing their children to have more freedom. The children in the ad were six and eight years of age. The ad included two parents in the background who were supervising the children. Although the children were hanging upside down, they were nearly touching the floor and therefore were at a safe distance so as to not fall and hurt themselves.
Based on research they had seen, to which they provided links, the human body was able to move food into the stomach through peristalsis, regardless of gravity. They referred to a study that they said supported their view that a person’s ability to swallow was not affected by the position they ate in, including when eating upside down. They also referred to a letter, published in a journal dedicated to the study of resuscitation, which they said stated that being in a head down position was recommended during a choking incident. Based on the research, and because Dairylea was a soft food, they considered there was a very low risk of choking when eating upside down.
They provided information about their approach to placing ads for Dairylea in different media, and highlighted that the VOD ad had been given an ‘ex-kids’ scheduling restriction. That meant that it was scheduled away from programming commissioned for, principally directed at, or likely to appeal to children under 16 years of age. They believed that the ad would therefore have had very limited exposure to children and as such it was unlikely that children would emulate eating when upside down or come to harm. However, they said they were no longer running the ad and would remove references to eating upside down if they used the ad in future.
Clearcast endorsed Mondelez’s comments, and also particularly highlighted that they had given the ad an ‘ex-kids’ scheduling restriction which ensured that children’s exposure to it was limited. Additionally, the ad was for a soft food, which, in their opinion, would not have been a choking hazard.
ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 said the ad was scheduled on their VOD services in accordance with Clearcasts’ scheduling restrictions.
The ad depicted two children, aged six and eight years old, hanging upside down from what appeared to be a 5-a-side football goal post in a park. The ASA considered this was a common and recognisable setting that many viewers, including children, would be familiar with, and accordingly would be easy for them to emulate the specific scene depicted in the ad. Furthermore, because the ad featured two young children in a realistic and familiar environment, who were posing and attempting to answer a question about how their bodies worked, we considered children would identify with them and their curiosity, and be encouraged to emulate the behaviour. Although the ad was specifically for a soft cheese, we considered that younger children would be encouraged by the ad to mimic the behaviour in other settings, and with other foods. Therefore, we considered the ad condoned and encouraged eating whilst hanging upside down.
We sought a view from the Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT). Their view was that the scenario depicted in the ad represented a situation where there was potentially a high risk of choking. The challenge of breathing, chewing and swallowing safely in an unnatural position was potentially difficult in itself, and the risk was compounded by the further hazard of falling and incurring head and neck injuries.We also noted that one complainant had reported that their three-year-old relative, after seeing the ad, ate their food whilst hanging upside down. We therefore considered that eating whilst upside down was an unsafe practice and one which could be dangerous for children to emulate.
We acknowledged that because the ad had an ex-kids restriction, children’s exposure to it would be reduced. However, we considered that the ad condoned and encouraged younger children to eat whilst hanging upside down, which was an unsafe practice where there was potentially a high risk of choking. We therefore concluded that a scheduling restriction was not sufficient to reduce the risk of harm and that the ad breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 4.5 (Harm and offence), 5.1, 5.1.2, 5.1.4 (Children), 30.6, 30.10 and 30.15 (Advertising rules for on-demand services regulated by statute).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told Mondelez UK Ltd to ensure their advertising did not condone or encourage unsafe practises.