ASA bans Cadbury ad and warns brands ‘don’t take easy option’ when it comes to junk food marketing

Mondelez, Chewits and Squashies have had online ads banned in the first rulings since the introduction of rules that restricts the advertising of junk food to under-16s online.

junk food

The ad regulator has warned brands not to take the “easy option” when it comes to advertising high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products as it bans three confectionery companies’ online ads – a first since it introduced new junk food rulings.

Mondelez UK, which owns Cadbury, Cloetta UK, which manufactures Chewits, and Swizzels Matlow, which produces Squashies, each had complaints upheld over their targeting of under-16s online.

Guy Parker, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) tells Marketing Week: “Our message to companies is be really careful when marketing to under-16s and don’t take easy options — it’s not good enough to rely on people’s self declared ages.

“These are important rulings because, although we maintain that there is no endemic non-compliance, it’s important that we pick up on anything that crosses the line and these rulings show the food industry exactly where that line is.”

READ MORE: Why the battle over junk food marketing could ‘fundamentally change’ the industry

Last July, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) banned HFSS products in children’s media, including on company’s own websites, social media platform and games. CAP is now beginning a formal review of the impact of the rules as it has been 12 months since their introduction. The moves comes after the government’s obesity strategy, announced last week, proposed a review of self-regulation in the ad industry.

Parker says: “From our informal monitoring the policy is having a significant impact but we’ll know more after CAP. We’ve seen plenty of changes before and after.”

Cadbury was reprimanded for its partnership with the National Trust for Scotland, where it providing a downloadable storybook titled ‘The Tale of the Great Easter Bunny’ and an activity pack titled ‘Eggciting activities’ that featured Cadbury-branded purple eggs.

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Chewits’ ruling was around its Facebook page, which was directed at under-16s including posts focused on Roald Dahl Day and children going back to school. Squashies, meanwhile, advertised on its game ‘Squashies World’ including an option to select ‘Playtime’ which opened an animation featuring cartoon images of anthropomorphised Squashies.

A spokesperson for Mondelez tells Marketing Week: “We take our responsibly to not market directly to young people seriously. We are disappointed the ASA felt that two downloadable assets, created specifically for the website, did not meet the required standards.

“We will be taking the insights and views provided by the ASA as part of this ruling and applying those learnings to our future content so we can continue to build upon our long-standing commitment to not market directly to children under the age of 16.”