The ruling was in response to a complaint from the Children’s Food Campaign (CFC) about the online game for Kellogg’s Krave brand of breakfast cereal.
The CFC argued that the game – which features a Krave cereal dressed as a superhero chasing chunks of chocolate – would appeal to children under the age of 16. But, its high sugar content made the product unsuitable for that age group and violated the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code on promoting products to children, it claimed.
The ASA disagreed, ruling that players who logged onto the Facebook game had their date-of-birth checked, which prevented access by consumers under the age of 16.
The authority said: “We noted that a user's date-of-birth was inputted into Facebook when the account was set up, which was likely to have been some time before the user attempted to access the game, and before users had a reason to misstate their age.”
Kellogg claimed the cereal is targeted at young-adults aged 17 and that its Facebook marketing campaign was not targeted at younger children. Game prizes – such as adult-sized t-shirts – were unlikely to appeal to children, it said.
Other promotion – such as late-night TV advertising and the distribution of samples at universities – proved that Krave was targeted at older consumers, claimed the firm.
A Kellogg spokesman told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “It’s great that the ASA agreed that Krave was not targeted at kids. The ruling proves it’s that simple: it is not meant for young children.”
But speaking after the ruling last week, Charlie Powell, CFC campaign director, complained that children needed more protection from the promotion of unhealthy foods on Facebook and other online outlets.
Earlier this month, the CFC had lodged what it termed a super complaint to the ASA containing 54 separate complaints about online brand promotions that allegedly violate advertising rules.
Powell told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “It remains to be seen how many [complaints] the ASA will uphold. It is a test to see if they are prepared to, and indeed capable of, protecting kids,” he added.
The CFC planned to send the ASA’s response to Ed Vaizey MP, minister for culture, communications and creative industries. The document would allow the minister to assess whether the ASA was able to remedy alleged abuses of the advertising standards code, claimed Powell.