Unilever clash with Advertising Standards Board over Paddle Pop advertisement

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 10th January 2012

Food manufacturing giant Unilever has appealed a decision by the Advertising Standards Board which ordered that an advertisement for its Paddle Pop products be taken off air over a claimed breach in the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI).

The advertisement for Unilever’s Bubble Gum Berry Lava Paddle Pop and the Hero or Villain Choc Orange Paddle Pop is set in a jungle and a voiceover describes the products.

In what is being described by Unilever as a far-reaching precedent, the Advertising Standards Board determined that the advertisement did not meet the ‘advertising messaging’ requirement of the RCMI.

The particular part of the code the Board referred to states:  “…the advertising and/or marketing communication activities reference, or are in the context of, a healthy lifestyle, designed to appeal to the intended audience through messaging that encourages: good dietary habits, consistent with established scientific or government criteria, and physical activity.”

The Board report referred to the RCMI obligation as a positive obligation and concluded that, “The advertisement did not reference good dietary habits and was not in the context of a healthy lifestyle that would encourage good dietary habits.”

In referring to physical activity, the Board noted that “the advertisement does not feature any characters participating in physical activity and that there are no verbal or visual references to taking part in physical activity”.

Unilever disputes that there was any obligation to include characters in the advertisement engaging in physical activity.

As well, the Board found that the advertisement breached the ‘Use of Popular Personalities and Characters’ requirements of the RCMI with regards to images of the Paddle Pop lion at the end of the ad. The report said “Although part of the label of the product, and shown in the context of a label, the Board considered that the use of the licensed character in an advertisement which did not meet the ‘Advertising Messaging’ requirement of the RCMI was a breach of the RCMI”.

In response, Unilever Australasia, which is one of the 17 companies currently participating in the RCMI, stated that they intend to appeal the decision even though the advertisement was no longer being shown on television.

The Australian Food and Beverage Industry developed the RCMI to demonstrate its commitment to responsible marketing of foods and beverages to children.

The goal of the RCMI is to ensure that a high level of social responsibility in marketing communication and marketing food and beverage products in Australia is maintained. It provides a framework for food and beverage companies to help promote healthy dietary choices and lifestyles to Australian children.