Summary of Council Decision:
Two issues were investigated, of which one was Not upheld and one Upheld.
A website, Facebook post and on-pack information, for a promotional offer on Unisnacks Europe’s Hello Panda biscuit brand, seen in April 2019:
a. The website www.unisnacks.co.uk included a page titled “Hello Panda Bubble Sticker Competition – Contest Details”. Text below that included “Look out for Hello Panda 50g boxes that contain the promotional message ‘Free Bubble Sticker Inside’ on pack. Purchase the boxes and collect the stickers that are included in them … First 250 participants to collect and complete 50 different stickers in the sticker book and submit their books get £50 each”. The website included a link to download the sticker book.
b. A post on Unisnacks UK’s Facebook page included an image featuring Hello Panda packaging and the text “HELLO PANDA BUBBLE STICKER COMPETITION 500 CASH PRIZES TO BE WON!”. Text on the post stated “Collect 50 different stickers to win. First 250 successful contestants win £50 each. Next 250 win £30 each”. The post included images of several cartoon pandas, pictures of Hello Panda packaging and the text “HELLO PANDA FUN-FILLED BISCUITS 50G”.
c. A section on the product packaging for “HELLO PANDA” biscuits referenced the promotional offer. Text stated “FREE Bubble Sticker Inside! Collect all 100!” and a direction for consumers to find the sticker book on the Unisnacks Facebook page.
The complainant challenged whether:
1. ads (a) and (b) were ads for products that were high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS product advertisements) that included a promotional offer and were targeted through their content directly at pre-school and primary school children, and
2. ads (a), (b) and (c) were marketing communications for a promotional offer which encouraged irresponsible consumption and the purchase of excessive quantities of food.
1. Unisnacks Europe Ltd said that by publicising their sticker competition on Facebook, they expected that the primary audience would be adults and noted that Facebook had a minimum age requirement of 13 years for its users. They said that prizes were paid by cheque so winners would have to have bank accounts and they had not made any attempts to directly target their campaign towards pre-school or primary school children.
2. Unisnacks Europe said that the competition ran for six months between April and September 2019, which they considered was a reasonable amount of time to responsibly allow consumers to collect 50 stickers. They also said that there were 100 different stickers, which increased the chance of collecting 50 different stickers. Unisnacks Europe stated that they encouraged friends and families to work together and exchange stickers.
1. Not upheld
The CAP Code required that HFSS product advertisements that were targeted through their content directly at pre-school or primary school children must not include a promotional offer. The rule 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 years. The ASA therefore assessed firstly, whether the ads were for 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. Both ads (a) and (b) featured Hello Panda biscuit products, which were HFSS products, and the ads were therefore HFSS product ads. Both ads also referred directly to the competition and were therefore HFSS products ads that featured a promotional offer. We considered that the product itself would be of interest to some pre-school and primary school children. The Unisnacks Europe website page (ad (a)) contained instructions on how to enter the competition. There was a description of the prizes on offer and how to participate. We considered that some elements of the presentation of the web page, such as the inclusion of images of Hello Panda packaging that featured a cartoon panda, and bright colours, were of appeal to children. However, we considered that the imagery and the competition itself were appealing to adults as well as children, and the wording and tone used were primarily directed at adults rather than children under 12 years of age. We therefore concluded that the content was not directly targeted at pre-school and primary school children.
The Facebook page, ad (b), contained images that may have some appeal to young children, including cartoon images of pandas, bright colours and the text “FUN-FILLED BISCUITS”. However, we considered that the imagery and the competition itself were appealing to adults as well as children, and the tone and wording used, including detailed instructions of where to go to participate, which supermarkets the food was available from, and the prizes available were primarily directed at adults rather than children under 12 years of age.
We therefore concluded that the content was not directly targeted at pre-school and primary school children. On that point, we investigated ads (a) and (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 15.14 (Food and soft drink product marketing communications and children) but did not find it in breach.
The CAP Code required that marketing communications for food products that featured a promotional offer must be prepared with a due sense of responsibility. The CAP Code also required that: marketing communications must not encourage children to eat more than they otherwise would; and marketing communications for collection-based promotions must not seem to urge children or their parents to buy excessive quantities of food. The Code also required that marketing communications featuring a promotional offer linked to a food product of interest to children must avoid encouraging the purchase of an excessive quantity for irresponsible consumption.
We considered that the product would be of interest to children and therefore this rule also applied. The promotion required entrants to obtain 50 different stickers within the competition period of six months, which would require the purchase of at least 50 boxes of biscuits within that period; a rate of two per week. However, that assumed that consumers received a different sticker in each box, which was unlikely, and that as a result entrants would need to purchase more than 50 boxes.
Although Unisnacks Europe told us that they encouraged groups to work together to collect the stickers, we considered that due to the limited amount of prizes, which were cash that would be paid to an individual, the promotion encouraged individuals to collect the stickers alone. In addition, prizes would be awarded to the first 250 people to collect 50 stickers which created a sense of urgency and encouraged purchasing the packs even more quickly. Although the biscuits did not need to be consumed to enter the competition, we considered that it was unlikely that consumers would purchase the biscuits without consuming them.
For those reasons we considered that the promotional offer irresponsibly created a sense of urgency and encouraged the purchase of an excessive quantity of the product for irresponsible consumption. We therefore concluded that marketing communications which referred to the promotional offer had not been prepared with a due sense of responsibility and ads (a), (b) and (c) breached the Code. Ads (a) and (b) also included specific details of how to enter the competition. Because they described the elements of the promotional mechanic that we considered created a sense of urgency and encouraged the purchase of an excessive quantity of the product for irresponsible consumption, we considered those marketing communications themselves created a sense of urgency and encouraged the purchase of an excessive quantity of the product for irresponsible consumption.
We therefore concluded ads (a) and (b) additionally breached the Code in that regard. Because ad (c) did not include any detailed information about the promotional mechanic we did not consider it breached the Code in that respect. We concluded that the ads were irresponsible and breached the Code.
On that point, ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 15.13, 15.14.2, 15.14.3 and 15.15.4 (Food and soft drink product marketing communications and children). On that point, ad (c) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 15.13 (Food and soft drink product marketing communications and children), but did not breach rules 15.14.2, 15.14.3 and 15.15.4 (Food and soft drink product marketing communications and children).
Ads (a), (b) and (c) must not appear again in their current form. We told Unisnacks Europe Ltd to ensure that future ads for foods which featured a promotional offer were prepared with a due sense of responsibility, and that ads: for products of interest to children did not create a sense of urgency or encourage the purchase of excessive quantities of food; did not encourage children to eat more than they otherwise would; and did not urge children or their parents to buy excessive quantities of food.