Kellogg’s and KFC in trouble for targeting children with unsuitable ads

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned ads by KFC and Kellogg’s for targeting children with products that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

A commercial for Coco Pops Granola featuring a cartoon monkey and a hyena getting excited by the “chocolatey” taste, was broadcast during the children’s version of “Mr Bean.” Kellogg’s argued that the cereal is not an HFSS food, so the company was well within its rights to show an ad for the product during children’s programming.

Technically, Kellogg’s is right, although chocolate granola hardly encourages healthy eating. The ASA banned Hogarth’s ad anyway, because it features Coco the Monkey, who is a brand mascot for the whole Coco Pops range.

There’s a twist to this story. The offending ad aired in January (the ASA rulings are always half a year behind) and in July, Kellogg’s reformulated the original Coco Pops to reduce sugar by 40 per cent, meaning that the whole range is now classified as non-HFSS. So Kellogg’s are free to target Coco Pops at children whenever they please.

KFC’s offence was a “Fingerlickin’ cool” poster for its Mars Krushems drink – an HFSS product if ever there was one – which was displayed on a telephone kiosk close to a primary school entrance gate.

A “human error” at media agency Blue 449 was to blame, brought about by a mistaken identity over the exact kiosk in use. KFC apologised for the mistake, as did media owner Primesight.

So, a misunderstanding and a genuine mistake. But it’s all to easy to target children inadvertently, and if advertisers want to avoid an outright ban on all HFSS ads before 9pm – which MPs have been calling for – they had better be extra vigilant.

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall is a journalist and editorial consultant and is the former Europe Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.

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