Oatly campaign banned by the ASA for environmental claims

It’s very much a sign of the times that Oatly, a plant-based milk, is one of the highest profile marketers right now — and all the work is done in-house. The brand is innovative and high-spending, but it’s also controversial, which has inevitably got it in trouble with the Advertising Standards Authority.

Last year’s “Help Dad” campaign got a lot of coverage because of the ageism and sexism that it heaped on middle aged men, but it’s the eco-campaigners with the real grudge – Oatly has been found guilty under the “environmental claims” aspects of the code, and not for causing any offence.

There were 109 complaints about the campaign, and the ads have been banned, although the impact of the ban is limited — “Help Dad” last run on TV a year ago and has since been superseded by the new animated cartons, Norm & Al.

Reading the ASA small print, it seems like the complainers had a point. It turns out that cutting dairy and meat products from our diets is not the single biggest change we can make to reduce our environmental impact. And while the food industry might account for 25% of greenhouse gases, that can’t just be blamed on meat and dairy.

Oatly also overstated the emissions from the meat and dairy industry compared to the transport industry, and misled the public into thinking that Oatly products generate a full 73% less CO2e than milk.

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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.