Ad description

A TV ad, YouTube ad and cinema ad for Cadbury, seen in late November 2018:
a. The TV ad began with a secondary school-aged girl, wearing a Santa Claus mask and carrying a large ribbon-wrapped chocolate bar under her arm, walking through a school during classes. She dodged behind a wall to avoid a teacher and peeked through the staff room door before going in and putting the chocolate bar in a pigeonhole. The ad then showed a man checking boxes on a production line when a tub of chocolates wrapped in a ribbon came towards him on the line. The shot cut to a woman hurrying away as she removed a Santa Claus mask, before cutting back to the man smiling as he held the chocolates. A primary school-aged boy was then shown putting on a Santa Claus mask and tiptoeing into a house’s garage to place a large, ribbon-wrapped pack of assorted chocolate bars on a bench while in the foreground a man was vacuuming a car. The ad then featured a secondary-school aged boy in his bedroom, sitting on his bed and unwrapping a large chocolate bar. On-screen text at the bottom of the screen appeared which stated “T&Cs and age restrictions apply”. The boy smiled as he looked in a mirror and spotted a primary school-aged child lying underneath his bed wearing a Santa Claus mask. The child under the bed removed the mask and smiled as the older boy left the room. A voice-over and on-screen text stated “Join our biggest Secret Santa ever, at”, followed by text which stated “There’s a glass & a half in everyone”. The ad was given an ‘HFSS product’ scheduling restriction, which meant it could not be broadcast in or around programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the ad of 16.
b. The YouTube video, hosted on Cadbury’s YouTube channel and titled “Cadbury Secret Santa - UK”, was the same as ad (a), except it also included a couple of additional scenes. One showed a man digging in an allotment in the foreground while someone wearing a Santa Claus mask sneaked into a shed in the background. The first man was then shown walking into the shed and finding a chocolate Santa. A second scene showed a man sneaking out of a house at night, in his dressing gown and wearing a Santa Claus mask, and placing a box of chocolates on the driving seat of a car, then removing the mask as he got back into bed with his sleeping partner. Additional smaller on-screen text shown at the end of the ad stated “T&Cs and age restrictions apply”.
c. The cinema ad showed the same scenes as the YouTube video and featured the same voice-over and on-screen text at the end as ad (a). Partway through the ad on-screen text at the bottom of the screen stated “T&Cs and age restrictions apply. Equivalent of 426ml of fresh liquid milk in every 227g of milk chocolate”. The ad was given an ‘HFSS route only’ restriction, which meant it must not be screened with HFSS-proscribed films or through buying routes that may have an audience profile of more than 25% under-16s.


The Children’s Food Campaign (Sustain) challenged whether the ads were HFSS product ads that were targeted through their content directly at pre-school or primary school children and featured a promotional offer.



Mondelez UK Ltd t/a Cadbury (Cadbury) said the ads referred to the generic Christmas theme Cadbury had adopted in 2018, which highlighted the message of generosity behind the Cadbury tagline “There’s a glass and a half in everyone” by linking it to the Secret Santa gifting tradition. It was intended to remind the public that gifting chocolate had been a part of Christmas tradition for many years.

The ads directed viewers to Cadbury’s website, where they could find information about the different elements of the Secret Santa brand campaign: a free sampling activity whereby people over the age of 16 could visit pop-up Cadbury stalls to pick up a chocolate bar and send it to someone for free; an in-store promotion run at a supermarket, whereby consumers aged over 18 received a free gift on purchasing Cadbury products; and the opportunity to purchase products and send them to others as a ‘Secret Santa’.

While Cadbury acknowledged that the ads directed consumers to the website, which referenced the promotions, they considered the ads themselves did not include or refer to any promotional offering. However, because the ad directed consumers to the website, Clearcast had recommended that they add a reference to the terms and conditions of the promotions into the TV ad.

Cadbury said the Secret Santa campaign theme was carefully selected to appeal to a broad audience. The theme generally appealed to, and had become an established tradition amongst, adults, especially in the workplace environment. They considered the concept did not specifically target nor appeal to children. The specific ads were also not focussed on pre-school or primary school children and Cadbury took care to ensure that their tone and presentation would not hold any appeal to children. The overall look and feel of the ads and the messaging were aimed towards an older audience, including the use of a version of the Beatles song ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ which they said only older audiences could relate to.

The mask worn in the ads acted to strengthen the Secret Santa messaging, with the focus being on the act of giving rather on the person giving the gift, who traditionally remained secret. Cadbury said the mask was not branded and was of no particular appeal to children. They further said that including children in the ads did not automatically mean they were appealing to children, but simply reflected wider society, and they emphasised that the ads included scenes where adults gifted chocolate to each other. Children were shown in the wider context of the ad to help convey the positive feelings associated with the Secret Santa tradition, for example by showing the girl gifting chocolate to a teacher.

Cadbury highlighted that the ads had been targeted so that they would not appear in children’s media.

Clearcast, responding in relation to the TV ad (ad (a)), said that although the ad contained a promotional offer, they did not feel it was targeted directly at pre-school or primary school children. Children were shown taking part in the Secret Santa tradition, but there was also an adult giving a Secret Santa gift to another adult. The voice-over stated “Join our biggest Secret Santa ever at” but did not mention specifically that children should do so, and on-screen text stated “age restrictions apply”. They understood that consumers must be aged at least 16 to participate in the promotions.

The Cinema Advertising Association (CAA), responding in relation to the cinema ad (ad (c)), said the ad did not include information about the nature of Cadbury’s Secret Santa and what it entailed, instead requiring navigating to a website which they considered highly unlikely in a cinema environment. The only information about the promotions, besides this being Cadbury’s “biggest Secret Santa ever”, was the on-screen text referencing that terms and conditions and age restrictions applied. They believed that was only likely to be read by those over primary school age. The CAA highlighted that the ad featured adults as well as children, and that chocolate was given by children to children, by adults to adults and by children to adults. Taken together, they took the view that the ad did not target pre-school or primary school children through its content but rather sought to address parents/guardians of such children, or older children.



Not upheld
The CAP and BCAP Codes required that HFSS product ads that were targeted through their content directly at pre-school or primary school children must not feature a promotional offer. The rules applied to all HFSS product ads whether or not they had been targeted in such a way as to direct them to people aged over 16. The ASA therefore assessed: firstly, whether the ads were HFSS product ads; secondly, whether the ads featured a promotional offer; and thirdly, whether the content of the ads was targeted directly at pre-school or primary school children.

All three ads featured people wearing Santa masks secretly leaving chocolate for other people. The products featured were all HFSS products and the ads were therefore HFSS product ads. We considered that, in combination with the voice-over which referenced Cadbury’s “biggest Secret Santa ever” at the end of the ads, the featured scenarios meant it was clear to viewers that Cadbury was running a ‘Secret Santa’ themed campaign in the run-up to Christmas. We understood that campaign featured a few different strands of brand activity, including two promotions: the pop-up stalls where consumers could get free chocolate to send to other people; and the supermarket gift-with-purchase promotion. While the Secret Santa themed campaign also included a non-promotional strand, we considered that because both promotional and non-promotional strands were branded under the same theme, the ads promoted both the promotional and non-promotional strands of the campaign. We considered the ads therefore featured a promotional offer.

We therefore reviewed whether the content of the ads was targeted directly at pre-school or primary school children. We considered that children, including those of pre-school and primary school age, would generally find appealing the idea of sneaking around in a Santa mask to secretly leave a gift of chocolate for someone. By depicting three scenarios in which children acted as a Secret Santa (one of which also featured a teenager receiving the chocolate), we considered children who saw the ads were more likely to visualise themselves playing that role and that they were therefore likely to engage with the content of the ads. However, we considered that older children and adults were also likely to find appealing the general Secret Santa concept and the specific scenarios depicted in the ads (both those that featured children and those that featured adults). The ads also had an understated tone and presentation overall, contributed to by a whimsical accompanying song, which we considered was more likely to have appeal to adults than children. While we considered pre-school and primary school age children would find the Secret Santa theme and scenarios appealing, we considered they were also appealing to older children and adults, and that the content was not targeted directly at pre-school or primary school children. We concluded the ads did not breach the Codes.

We investigated ad (a) under BCAP Code rule 13.9 (Food and soft drink product advertising to children), but did not find it in breach.

We investigated ads (b) and (c) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 15.14 (Food and soft drink product marketing communications and children), but did not find it in breach.


No further action necessary.



CAP Code (Edition 12)


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