The Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC) recently announced that the Australian Advertising Standards Board (ASB) has upheld its complaint alleging that a TV commercial for Kellogg Co.’s Coco Pops® cereal violated the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative (RCMI). According to ASB’s case report, the advertisement under review featured a bowl of Coco Pops® playing “Marco Polo” in a cereal bowl, followed by an image of a child consuming the product and a voiceover stating, “Just like a chocolate milkshake only crunchy.”

OPC claimed that this commercial violated RCMI by (i) communicating directly with children, (ii) advertising a product that does not “represent a healthy dietary choice consistent with established scientific or Australian government standards,” and (iii) failing to promote “healthy dietary habits or physical activity.” In particular, the coalition argued that the commercial not only imitated children’s voices and behavior in a bid to appeal “overwhelmingly to children,” but was broadcast during programs watched “by large numbers of children.” The complaint also sought to anticipate any assertions “that Coco Pops are a ‘treat’ food,” insisting instead that “Coco Pops are widely understood to be a breakfast cereal; a meal which is consumed daily.”

In issuing its decision, ASB agreed with OPC that the commercial seemed directed “primarily to children under 12,” but found that the product advertised met the requirements for a healthier dietary choice as determined by an independent arbiter and was therefore “permitted to be advertised to children under 12.” Still, even though the advertisement did not reportedly violate any of food and children’s marketing codes issued by the Australian Association of National Advertisers, the board ruled the commercial in breach of RCMI because it purportedly failed to actively promote physical activity and good dietary habits.

“I hope that we are beginning to see the ASB findings its teeth on the issue of marketing to children, for a long time it has been a toothless tiger,” said OPC Executive Manager Jane Martin, “but this is an issue that is too important to continually ignore. We know that advertising to children influences what they pester their parents for.” See OPC Press Release, June 24, 2013.