Mixed rulings for fast food TV ads aimed at kids

Complaints aimed at McDonald’s ads promoting its Happy Meal to children have been upheld and dismissed in two separate investigations by the advertising watchdog, while Hungry Jack’s has also been rapped for its Kids Club Meal ad.

A TV ad for McDonald’s featuring an animated monkey and its Happy Meal deal which comes with a Cartoon Network toy, was found that it did not clearly represent the advertised product in a way “that would be understood by children”, according to the Advertising Standards Bureau.

Complaints against the Stuff to Know – Cartoon Network TV ad were upheld, though McDonald’s said it was no longer on air at the time the complaint was being investigated and it had no plans to bring it back as the promotion had ended.

However in separate ruling, a complaint made against another McDonald’s Happy Meal was dismissed. The Box of Fun TV ad (above) features different characters in the form of origami used to promote its Happy Meal to children.

While there were complaints that the ad didn’t meet the industry’s nutritional criteria of representing healthier lifestyle and eating choices in advertising to children, the ASB deemed that it did.

The watchdog said:

The Board noted that the advertisement depicted very fast and short glimpses of images of the food contained in the McDonald’s Happy Meal and that although it was not altogether easy to identify what foods would be contained within the Happy Meal at first glance, the advertisement did depict and encourage an active lifestyle and healthier lifestyle choices.”

Meanwhile, a Hungry Jack’s TV ad promoting its Kids Club Meal which includes a Sponge Bob Square Pants toy has been banned by the ASB after it was found that the ad did not meet nutritional criteria required when advertising to children.

The use of Sponge Bob toys was also found to be in breach of the industry requirement that “popular personalities or licensed characters must not be used in advertising or marketing communications to children/or/for food and/or beverage products”.

While Hungry Jack’s has accepted the ruling, it responded in a statement:

We understand that the meal we promoted did not fully comply with the nutritional guidelines of the initiative however the meal did present a ‘healthier choice’ than meals previously included in Kids Meals and the ‘healthiest’ choice we had available at the time.

As a reasonably large commercial enterprise, making significant changes to our products, suppliers and systems takes considerable time to develop and implement. Of paramount importance is the provision of menu items that are commercially viable and sustainable and this is proving a challenge for the entire QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) industry.”


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