Cancer Council takes aim at cartoon characters that front sugary foods, Kellogg’s fights back

The Cancer Council, which is embroiled in a fight with big tobacco about the plain packaging of cigarettes, has aimed its sights on cartoon characters used by brands to promote sugary and fatty foods.

Cancer Council NSW has joined forces with the Obesity Policy Coalition and The Parents’ Jury in a bid to ban promotional characters such as the Coco Pops monkey and the Paddle Pop lion, according to an article in yesterday’s The Sunday Telegraph.

Kathy Chapman, a Cancer Council nutritionist, did not call for packaging on unhealthy foods to be made plain, but called for more regulation around  marketing to children.

In a statement issued to Mumbrella, Kellogg’s, which makes Coco Pops and Froot Loops, said:

Our products that the Cancer Council has chosen to focus on are marketed as treat products. Cereals that parents can choose to provide to kids on fun or special occasions such as school holidays and birthdays.

The company added that the Coco Pops monkeys has not been used in advertising in Australia since 2005, while advertising spend on Fruit Loops is minimal.

A Kellogg’s spokesperson added:

Kellogg’s advertising is aimed at mums.  We know from talking to Australian mums that there is a nostalgia around some of our characters such as Snap Crackle and Pop or Coco the Monkey which were introduced over 50 years ago.  These characters continue to be the images you see on pack, as they have a soft spot in people’s hearts.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council has waded into the debate too, claiming that the industry had already stopped using licensed characters to advertise unhealthy foods to children under the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative.


  1. inq
    12 Sep 11
    1:07 pm

  2. What is wrong with these people? Stop banning things! Morons at the Cancer Council. What is happening to this country that these outraged PC scumbags seem to be taking over.

  3. pj
    12 Sep 11
    1:19 pm

  4. Great thinking Cancer Council and every other Hovering Parent Association involved.
    Good God – where will it all end?
    Seriously people are we so intent on taking all the colour out of this world that we are now harrassing a group of illustrations!!!
    Stop treating the consumer like idiots. Mothers hold the purse strings and the household grocery decisions.
    If they are making their dietary choices based on whether or not there is a monkey on a pack, then we are in more trouble than I thought.
    I am not defending the likes of Kelloggs or Uncle Toby’s, but I am so over councils like yourselves placing the responsibility for parent’s decisions on the companies.

  5. Lucio
    12 Sep 11
    1:42 pm

  6. Clearly, the vast majority of us are complete morons without the ability to educate/influence/control the diets of our children. Thank you CC, for presenting another opportunity for us to shirk the inherant responsibility that comes with being a parent. Now please set to work on an excuse for us to avoid responsibilty for the social behaviour of our feral, underaged-drinking, drug-taking teenagers. Much obliged.

  7. AdGrunt
    12 Sep 11
    1:53 pm

  8. I think my (very) dim view of the Cancer Council has got dimmer. But then, being a an Council, what can one expect apart from self-serving agenda.

    Their relentless prohibition agenda, backed up by flimsy, sometimes downright shonky market research is once again loosely premised around “will no-one think of the children”

    Sadly this obscures the positive, considered work they do undertake in wider, actual medical cancer research.

    It’s a shame they feel that we’re all so stupid that the only solution is banning and forcing choices on us, as our feeble minds clearly cannot think for us or be educated into making reasoned choices.

    I strongly suggest Cure Cancer Australia – – their name is as transparent as it gets and so is their agenda.

    I have nothing to do with them, but as they aren’t dissipating donations trying to enforce a prohibition agenda via political means, they get my donation instead of Cancer Council.

  9. Drew
    12 Sep 11
    1:58 pm

  10. Instead of blaming packaging for the increase in obesity and unhealthy eating the Councer Council should focus on increasing food and nutritional education, Australian consumers need more knowledge to understand the impacts of the food they consume let’s not wrap them in wool and mother them let’s empower them to make the right decision.

  11. Kelly
    12 Sep 11
    2:03 pm

  12. How ridiculous.

    I echo the thoughts of earlier posters – I won’t be donating to the Cancer Council anymore, as they’re clearly more interested in being moral guardians than advocates for curing cancer.

  13. holy bejeezus
    12 Sep 11
    2:05 pm

  14. Seriously these people need to get over themselves and stop needlessly pushing to ban anything which THEY do not feel is appropriate for today’s society.

    I don’t like Vegemite…can we ban that too? The smell offends me….that’s a enough good reason isn’t it?
    And what about fruit? I mean fruit has a whole load of sugar in it…that’s not good for you….ban it.
    Oh hang, I’ve got one….eggs!? They can break in the pan and you could get the shell stuck in your throat if you don’t know to pull it out of the pan….quick, ban them.

    Better yet, here’s a maverick idea: What about letting people take responsibility for their OWN product choices? No? Too free world? Idiots.

    I think they really need to find something else to fill their day, because their current to do list is clearly lacking in useful activities.

  15. JC
    12 Sep 11
    2:31 pm

  16. one wonders if the Parents’ Jury advocate parents saying NO to their kids . . . ?

  17. James
    12 Sep 11
    2:40 pm

  18. Maybe the Cancer Council need to start focusing their energies on more productive things, rather than trying to ban everything that’s common sense – instead the should be attacking the countless food companies that put poisons in our food which are known to cause cancer – MSG (aka Yeast Extract) Soy Lecithin, synthetic sweeteners, GM foods, genetically modified high fructose corn sugar, refined salt, artificial flavorings and colors, and other chemicals that are making us all sick!!!

    Or perhaps the Cancer Council should get involved in stopping specialist cancer hospitals feeding their patients desserts that are high in sugar, as well as fruit juices that are high in sugar – it is a known fact that sugar is an aggressor to cancer!!

    I can go on and on… simple fact of the matter is that the Cancer Council do NOTHING but collect donations and make themselves rich whilst we all get sick, and die. There are many known cancer cures that the Cancer Council website merely dismisses because anything ‘alternative’ to western medicine is considered as quackery… you people are pathetic and I hope you all rot in hell.

  19. Harpo
    12 Sep 11
    3:13 pm

  20. pj,
    it’s not that simple. … are you someone who gets paid to promote products such as these? if so, do you simply ‘look the other way’ ? Do any of you other posters have obese children? Nah didn’t think so… I don’t think the Cancer Council has gone far enough.

  21. Mark
    12 Sep 11
    3:47 pm

  22. I don’t support them, but c’mon, can we blame them?

    The packaging design and marketing’s worked.

    They have everyright to fight, just as you can fight for your work. This battle has been going on for a while and I think it’s set to ramp up.

    Again, I don’t agree with them, but this is a battle to change marketing practices, their aim is not to remove product from shelves but reduce the direct connection the product makes with kids, displace the level of interest it captures in and outside the store.

    Rather than the mud slinging comments is there any commentary on how this will impact on marketing strategy? Would anything actually change?

    Does anyone have anything interesting to say about this?

  23. But...
    12 Sep 11
    3:49 pm

  24. What a load of complete and utter rubbish – this actually makes me NOT want to ever contribute to another Cancer Council fundraising drive in future if this is the stupidity I’m supporting.

    The Cancer Council need to start better investing their (generously donated) resources on worthwhile persuits and stop treating the average parent and consumer like an idiot who can’t make an informed decision on behalf of themselves or their children, and I genuinely believe that the vast majority of consumers would agree.

    This kind of nanny-state behaviour by Cancer Council will only result in their own public relations and fundraising detriment.

  25. Mark
    12 Sep 11
    3:56 pm

  26. When is the responsability for what our kids eat go back onto the parents & NOT the packaging.

  27. AdGrunt
    12 Sep 11
    3:59 pm

  28. Harpo,
    So where does parental responsibility come into this?
    Perhaps the lack of fat kids is because we understand basic nutrition and the word “no”?

  29. AdGrunt
    12 Sep 11
    5:08 pm

  30. Mark,
    We’re critiquing their strategy of prohibiting cartoons on cereals, because apparently that leaves parents and children powerless to resist their purchase.

    It seems blindingly obvious (to me) that a strategy to educate consumers about nutrition so they can make an informed choice across a spectrum of foods would yield far greater results.

    But that’s quite hard and the Cancer Council isn’t into the hard empowering stuff, when it can more easily espouse prohibition.

  31. Peter Dowse
    12 Sep 11
    8:21 pm

  32. Fat kids? There’s a fair bet there’s fat parents too. What’s that saying? Do they honestly think the absence of a cartoon monkey is going to help obese and unhealthy people suddenly become aware of correct nutrition and healthy eating.

    Yeah….probably not.

  33. Old Legume
    12 Sep 11
    9:35 pm

  34. I think advertising fruit and veggies with colourful vibrant, feel good advertising is a great thing. Kids get enough sugar from fruit and veggies are a must.

    Unfortunately for as many of the responsible and educated parents on this forum there are thousands upon thousands of parents in Australian society who will purchase a high sugar / sodium food for their kids because it is marketed to their kids and they cant say no…

    Child hood obesity is costing us loads in health fees and something needs to be done about it. (.)

  35. Old Legume
    12 Sep 11
    9:39 pm

  36. p.s. It is remarkable that so many comments on this thread suggest that advertising does not work..?

  37. Anonymous
    12 Sep 11
    10:12 pm

  38. This is just ridiculous

  39. AdGrunt
    12 Sep 11
    11:16 pm

  40. Old Legume (a chestnut, perhaps?)

    So you’re saying that these other parents are too feeble minded to be able to raise their kids in the way you see fit?

    Why not sterilise them – that’d go to the nub of the problem.

    “Does this mean advertising doesn’t work?”

    No, it doesn’t mean advertising is a magical brainwashing device. If you believe that, then you should probably get back to peeling the spuds.

  41. AgentClarke
    13 Sep 11
    8:08 am

  42. @AdGrunt, Cancer Council is very much in favour of empowering people to make healthy decisions. The Obesity Policy Coalition of which Cancer Council is a founding member has created a mobile app to demonstrate the simplicity of using a system of traffic light labelling on packaged food to highlight levels of salt, fat, sat fat and sugars. It wants to see the government mandate such labels so people can cut through marketing hype. Of course industry are vehemently opposed as it would make marketing nutrition claims like 99% fat-free on sugar-laden fods look a bit spurious to say the least…
    @OldLegume, excellent point about using vibrant feel-good advertising to promote fruit and veggies – Weet-Bix is a great example of a healthy products using such tactics to great effect.
    Parents should be supported to make healthy choices for their kids, not constantly undermined by misleading advertising and cynical attempts by junk food manufacturers to create pester power.

  43. mark
    13 Sep 11
    9:42 am

  44. AdGrunt, my personal view is certainly that it’s a parental responsibility etc.

    But to your point about doing the hard empowering stuff, I find it interesting that they’ve worked out a shortcut, rather than focusing on trying to convince people to make a healthy decision (which has never worked and we’ve always laughed at the attempts to do so) they’ve decided their job is naturally made easier by making their competitors job harder.

    Be it right or wrong, I think it’s something they’ve learned from advertising. They’re looking to directly reduce the effectiveness of advertising.

    And while most of the comments here seem to focus on the negative impact this may have on the Cancer Council’s image, do we really think the average parent out there cares about this as much as we seem to?

    Is there money to be made by agencies in all of the work that would flow from these changes?

    Would there be pressure to apply similar rules to other categories?

    This industry never been particularly good at tapping into societies moral compass, that’s not our job, but it appears to be becoming more important to be able to get around some of the barriers that external stakeholder groups will be attempting to put up.

  45. anon_coward
    13 Sep 11
    9:42 am

  46. +10 internets to AdGrunt.

  47. Paul
    13 Sep 11
    10:12 am

  48. I missed the section on the pack that says “Treat Product”. Perhaps if they put them in the confectionary section, rather than the cereal section of the supermarket, I would be more convinced by the response.

    And yes, Old Legume, it does seem to be a double-edged sword – by saying that the characters have no effect, it implies that marketing, packaging and advertising doesn’t work. So, why bother with the expensive colour packaging and cartoon characters?