Tasty reminder about the rules for HFSS product ads

Jul 14th '22

In May 2022, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) reminded the industry that despite the Government delaying its new restrictions on the advertising of ‘less healthy’ food and soft drink products, there were still plenty of significant protective measures set out in the CAP and Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) Codes regarding the content and targeting of ads for foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS).


  • Scheduling and targeting restrictions

Scheduling restrictions in the BCAP Code already require that HFSS product ads are not placed in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 16. The restriction is illustrated in this Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruling regarding an ITV ad for McDonalds which was shown around a Nancy Drew film.


There is a similar rule in the Food section of the CAP Code which relates to HFSS and media placement . Advertising rules indicate that HFSS product ads should not be directed at under 16’s through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. Additionally, the rule requires that no medium should be used to advertise HFSS products if more than 25% of its audience is under 16.  These four ASA rulings relate to complaints about whether poster ads placed near primary schools amounted to HFSS ads that were targeted at children.


This ruling assessed whether collecting animated “squashies” (an HFSS confectionary collection) on a product-branded advergame app amounted to an HFSS product ad targeted at children.


  • Licensed characters and celebrities

Both Codes are clear that ads which are targeted directly at pre-school and primary school children must not include licensed characters or celebrities popular with children.  It does not however prevent the use of advertiser-created equity brand characters.


ASA rulings into non-broadcast ads have included: an investigation into the HFSS status of Happy Meals, the targeting of an HFSS chocolate promotion featuring Peter Rabbit and videos of Care Bears and Oddbods on the Kinder website and app.


  • Promotional offers

The rules prohibit promotional offers for HFSS products in ads aimed at young children through their content. Additionally, ads for promotional offers linked to HFSS products of appeal to children should not encourage the purchase of an excessive quantity for irresponsible consumption and should not encourage children to eat or drink a product only to take advantage of a promotional offer. Ads for collection-based promotions must not seem to urge children or their parents to buy excessive quantities of food. This ASA ruling related to website & social media ads and an on-pack promotion for a panda-themed biscuit which required the purchase of multiple packs of an HFSS product in order to enter a prize draw.


There is lots of Advice on HFSS including this CAP Guidance on identifying HFSS product ads.


Source: CAP


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