KFC and Kellogg's broke junk food ad rules

Image source, kellogg

Food giants KFC and Kellogg's have been told to remove adverts which promoted junk food to children, by the UK's advertising watchdog.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says they broke strict rules on advertising high fat, sugar or salt products to children.

The ASA found Kellogg's promoted a Coco Pops product during a Mr Bean cartoon, likely to have been seen by children.

It also ruled KFC advertised a Mars product on a phone box by a school.

KFC said the appearance of the ad close to a school was a simple human error and it had taken the advert down promptly, once it had been alerted.

And Kellogg's said it was disappointed with the decision as it had only meant to promote the healthier Coco Pops Granola product, rather than the original version.

'Synonymous with Coco Pops'

Members of the public complained to the ASA, triggering the investigations.

The ASA was alerted to a poster ad for KFC's Mars Krushems drink which was seen on a phone box outside a school.

Because it was displayed close to the entrance to a primary school, children under the age of 16 made up a much higher proportion of the ad's audience.

How to advertise to children

Image source, Getty Images

Advertising for children is allowed in general - think of ads for toys and games - but the ASA says there are factors that must be considered.

Adverts must not:

  • Suggest a child would be unpopular if they do not own a particular product
  • Make a direct appeal to a child to get a product
  • Encourage children to make a nuisance of themselves unless they get bought a product
  • Cause confusion between real-life and imagination
  • Harm a child's physical or mental health or encourage them to put themselves in harm's way, for example showing children in a dangerous situation (unless the ad is a safety warning)
  • Advertise high salt, fat or sugar foods to children

The ASA considered it was highly likely those younger children comprised significantly more than 25% of the audience of the ad, and that it therefore broke the rules.

The Coco Pops Granola ad appeared between episodes of the Mr Bean cartoon, during a section of programming specifically directed at children under 16.

The ASA said that, although Coco Pops Granola was not a high fat, sugar or salt product, because the Coco Pops branding was synonymous with Coco Pops original cereal and with the Coco Pops range, it concluded the ad had effectively promoted the range.

Two other ads by McDonald's, which had also been complained about, were deemed not to have broken rules.

'Protect children'

Jess Tye from the ASA said, "obviously advertising has an effect" otherwise companies "wouldn't be bothering with adverts".

She said: "We do know that ads play a small part in food preferences for children and it's really important that we act as a regulator to make sure that advertisers are being really responsible in the way that they are promoting these products."

Steven Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association which represents the advertising industry, said the KFC breach had been "inadvertent".

He said: "Rules are there to protect children.

"That's what the industry is trying to do."