The UK's advertising watchdog ASA has ruled in favour of Swiss confectionery giant Nestle following a complaint from Sustain, an alliance for better food and farming, for irresponsible product placement.
The alliance had challenged two print adverts and a 30 second TV spot for a Smarties, Milky Bar and Fruit Pastilles promotion for free sporting activities.
The adverts, created by advertising agency JWT, featured 1980s UK Olympic decathlon medallist Daley Thompson and promoted a scheme that enabled consumers to redeem tokens from Smarties, Milky Bar and Fruit Pastilles for a free sporting activity. The adverts bore the strapline: 'Bring out the natural athlete in them'.
Set against the backdrop of soaring child obesity rates in the UK, how the public perceives confectionery adverts, whether targeted at children or not, is a sensitive domain and a hotbed of interpretation that are a major consideration for confectionery players designing their publicity material.
Nestle defends ads
In response to the Sustain complaint Nestle explained that the ads were designed to be an incentive for parents to "bring out the natural athlete" in their children by letting them engage in their favourite activities or try new, free sporting activities.
Further, the confectionery giant argued that the ads were not targeted at children, pointing out that Daley Thompson was a sporting hero in the 1980s; they believed he was well-known among adults but people under 24 years of age were unlikely to recognise him, thereby demonstrating that they were targeting an adult audience.
The UK's advertising watchdog ruled that none of the four complaints would be upheld. ASA concluded that the ads were unlikely to give a misleading impression of the nutritional and health benefits of the products as a whole.
The watchdog also ruled that the posters were unlikely to be seen as encouraging children to eat a product only to take advantage of a promotional offer; and that, although some elements of the ads might have some appeal to children, on the whole they were more likely to appeal to adults than to children.