Cadbury draws ASA censure over Freddo ads targeting children

Elements in Cadbury's Freddo campaign have been banned by the ASA.

Aspects of Cadbury's campaign were judged to be aimed at children
Aspects of Cadbury's campaign were judged to be aimed at children

An outdoor ad for Cadbury appearing at a bus stop close to a primary school has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, alongside another three promotions for the firm's Freddo brand.

The Mondelez-owned chocolate label ran a multi-pronged marketing drive for its Freddo chocolate bar last July. But two complainants, including The Children's Food Campaign, argued that the ads promoted products high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) and were aimed at children.

The first execution to be challenged was a poster featuring a cartoon image of Freddo the Frog under the heading "Freddo and the missing hop". Adjacent to the image of the product packaging was text stating: "Parents, search missing hop for the full adventure. Cadbury.co.uk/freddo."

Cadbury stated that the ad was displayed at a bus stop close to a primary school due to an error made by JCDecaux. The latter acknowledged the mistake and added it was taking steps to address it.

Nevertheless, the ASA felt that the ad contravened the CAP Code, which stipulates that no medium should be used to advertise HFSS products if more than 25% of its audience was under the age of 16. Given its placement, the ad breached the code.

The second piece of offending activity was the website www.cadbury.co.uk/freddo, which featured branding including the Cadbury logo, and web pages with a comic book, audio book, activities and promotions bearing imagery of Cadbury chocolate products.

The website required visitors to enter their date of birth and personal details on their first visit and stipulated: "You must be 16 years of age or over to enter." Text on the home page addressed parents, detailing the downloadable content and providing links to an activity page.

While the ASA acknowledged that visitors to the site would predominantly be adults, they judged that the content would appeal to children and was therefore directed at under-16s. It therefore breached the code.

Two further elements of the campaign were banned. The downloadable comic book, entitled The Missing Hop, featured an image of Freddo on the cover and told the story of his quest to hunt down his friend Toad's missing hop. Meanwhile, the downloadable audiobook was a voiced version of The Missing Hop story that could be downloaded via a promotions page.

The ASA ruled that both the audiobook and comic book were directed at children and contravened the code.

A spokesperson for Cadbury said that the company was "disappointed the ASA considered that some elements of the Freddo and the missing hop campaign did not meet the required standards", highlighting its commitment to not directly targeting under 16s.

"We are already 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 on our commitment in this area," Cadbury said.

Cadbury managed to escape the ASA's censure over a number of other promotions that were complained about, including two YouTube videos and a promotional webpage.

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