Ad Standards board rules against Paddle Pop icy pole ad for targeting children

A TV ad promoting a Dragon Pop Icy Pole has fallen foul of the ad watchdog, with the Ad Standards Board ruling the advertiser was directly targeting children with the spot.

(Courtesy of Ebiquity)

The spot featured a group of three young children running towards a castle where they each begin to eat an icy pole before one of the children turns into the animated Paddle Pop lion, who then has a battle again a villainous character. The ad features the subtitled statement “True Heroes Balance Energy Intake and Activity. Enjoy Paddle Pop as a Treat within a Balanced Diet”.

Complainants argued the ad breached the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI) as it is an ad for products directed primarily to children, also arguing that the products “do not represent a healthier dietary choice consistent with established scientific or Australian government standards”.

Unilever, the parent company of Paddle Pop, defended the ad, arguing it is a responsible advertiser and is committed to the RCMI.

They said: “We agree that the TVC is a marketing communication for food products directed primarily to children. The TVC contains themes and visuals which do appeal to children and Annexure ‘C’ suggests that the TVC was aired during children’s programs, and therefore was predominantly viewed by children. As such, with regard to the content and placement, we confirm that the TVC was targeted primary to children and falls within the ambit of the RCMI.”

In its defence of the dietary recommendations, Unilever provided numerous detail on the calories of the snack, and said the brand refers to the products as “treats to be enjoyed occasionally”.

Unilever said: “As a result, we constantly refer to Paddle Pop products, including the Relevant Product, as treats to be enjoyed occasionally. Accordingly, the TVC displays the message “True heroes balance energy intake with activity. Enjoy Paddle Pop as a treat within a balanced diet”. This message reminds children and their parents that the Relevant Product is to be consumed as a treat and to balance consumption with energy intake and good diet.”

In its ruling, the board noted that the relevant requirement of the RCMI is that the company does not advertise food and beverage products to children under 12 in ‘media’ unless those products represent healthy dietary choices.

As the ad includes animation, adventure, colours and images of children, all of which appeal to children, the board considered the ad was clearly directed primarily to children under 12.

Further to this, as the ad is featured on pay TV’s Nickeloden channel.

While other complaints were dismissed, the board upheld the complaint relating to the ad targeting children.

In response to the decision, Unilever said the ad was last aired on September 19 and will not be aired again in its current form.

Miranda Ward


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