Zoella and Nutella - HFSS products and children
When engaging influencers to promote a high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) product, how can advertisers help ensure that they will not be promoting this product to children?
A range of social media ads for Ferrero (including a YouTube video, Instagram post, tweets and an Instagram post) were placed between the 3 – 7 February 2018. The ads featured the following selection of posts:
- an Instagram post, posted by PointlessBlog, on 3 February 2018 contained an image of Alfie Deyes and Zoella with a selection of pastries, cakes and fruits.Accompanying text stated “Currently having a massive @Nutella brunch!look how amazing it looks! Get involved this Monday using #WorldNutellaDay.I’m going to be on the hashtag looking through to see all of your recipes”;
- the YouTube video, posted by PointlessBlog, on 4 February 2018 featured Alfie Deyes, his family and Zoella eating a brunch to celebrate World Nutella Day, which included various foods made with Nutella;
- the first tweet from PointlessBlog, posted on 5 February 2018, stated “#WorldNutellaDay is finally here!! Make sure you’re using the hashtag, so I can see what you’ve made! Here’s what we made in celebration”.An embedded video titled “NUTELLA BREAKFAST PARTY” was the same video as ad (b);
- Zoella posted on Instagram on 5 February 2018 an image of a selection of pastries, cakes and fruits and three small jars of Nutella.Accompanying text stated “Had the breakfast of all breakfasts at the weekend with @pointlessblog and the rest of the fam celebrating #WorldNutellaDay.Can breakfast be like this everyday please?”;
- the second tweet from PointlessBlog, posted on 7 February 2018, stated “Wishing I could have this brunch all over again! #WorldNutellaDay”, and was accompanied by the same image as in ad (a).
In 2007 the advertising of HFSS products aimed at children under 16 was prohibited. In 2017 the ASA expanded these rules to cover non-broadcast media including online and social media. CAP Code rule 15.18 prohibits product advertisements that are directed at people under 16 though the selection of media or the context in which they appear. Additionally, no medium should be used to advertise HFSS products, if more than 25% of its audiences are under 16 years of age.
Three complainants challenged where the ads posted on social media from PointlessBlog and Zoella were promoting a HFSS product to children.
Ferrero stated that they place a significant amount of importance on the selection of vloggers whose audience demographic did not exceed the percentage of audience under 16 years of age per CAP Code rule 15.18. They explained further that only a small percentage of PointlessBlog and Zoella's followers were in the 13 to 17 age bracket.
Ferrero said that they include language that is designed to proactively guide influencers towards creating content that was in line with all aspects of the CAP Code. The influencers were contractually obliged to ensure that the content created was addressed towards an adult audience and did not include any exhortation directed at children or of appeal to children. Ferrero considered that they had taken all reasonable steps to ensure that the content posted by PointlessBlog and Zoella was in compliance with the CAP Code.
Additionally, and perhaps their most persuasive point, Ferrero provided data to the ASA showing that the percentage of PointlessBlogs followers on YouTube who were registered on the platform as between 13 and 17 accounted for only 17.6% of his total followers. The percentage of the vlog’s UK followers in that age bracket who viewed ad (b), PointlessBlog’s YouTube video ad, was 18.6%. Ferrerro also provided data which showed that the percentage of Zoella’s UK followers on YouTube who were registered on the platform as between 13 and 17 years of age was 21% of her total followers.
Additionally, Ferrero were able to highlight that, globally, PointlessBlog’s Instagram followers who were registered as between 13 and 17 years of age comprised 20% of his total followers. Zoella’s followers in the same age bracket comprised 17% of her total followers.
Zoella noted that she was engaged by PointlessBlog to assist with his engagement with Ferrero. She herself did not have a direct relationship with, or any obligations to, Ferrero. However, Zoella did still take necessary steps to review her following to ensure that her involvement in the campaign did not breach the CAP Code.
The ASA did not uphold these complaints.
It found that the content did not focus on themes likely to be of particular appeal to under 16's. It considered that the content would not be of greater appeal to those under 16's than those over the age of 16. Furthermore, the ASA assessed each ad's compliance with the Code based on the specific ways in which consumers interacted with the different platforms, the targeting tools available on each platform and the data relating to the age profile of the influencers audience.
The ASA further noted with regards to the YouTube posts, that less than 25% of PointlessBlog's registered UK subscriber base and users who view the post while logged in were registered as being under 18 and therefore an even smaller proportion were under 16. The ASA also clarified that while they could not establish the age of the viewers that were not logged in, they did not have a basis on which to believe that there would be a significant difference between the demographic profile of users viewing the post while not logged in and those that were logged in.
Moreover, for those posts that were non-paid for posts ((a) and (d) above), neither the influencer nor Ferrero would have been able to utilise the age restrictions or interest based targeting available on Instagram for paid-for ads. The same applied for the twitter posts posted by the influencers ((c) and (e) above).
In addition to the above, it was considered that the advertiser has used the most robust demographic data available to them and had ensured that they were responsible when targeting their advertising. The ASA concluded that, in association with PointlessBlog and Zoella, Ferrero had taken reasonable steps to target the ads appropriately and therefore did not breach the CAP Code.
Why is this important?
This is a helpful decision for both advertisers and online platforms. It shows how much emphasis the ASA places on demographic data and how reasonable inferences can be made across platforms, as well as across both users that are logged into a platform, and those that are not. The latter is a particularly useful development.
The ASA noted the reasonable steps taken by both Ferrero and the influencers; including the inclusion of language in the contract between Ferrero and PointlessBlog that obliged PointlessBlog to ensure that in his performance of the Contract he was creating content that was in line with the CAP Code specifically regarding the addressing of the content to an adult audience.
Furthermore, in the current HFSS advertising climate, with a proposal for a 9pm watershed on HFSS advertising amongst other developments in this area, it is important for advertisers and influencers to ensure that they are targeting their advertising towards the appropriate demographic, and to be able to present such demographic data to regulators if necessary. Moreover, highlighting positive use of targeting tools available via each social media platform on which the ads appears should go a long way to demonstrating to regulators that an advertiser has acted responsibly with regard to HFSS products.
Any practical tips?
Advertisers should ensure that when engaging influencers they incorporate language that obliges influencers to create content that is in line with the CAP Code. Not only does this mean appropriate advertising disclosures so that any content is recognisable as an ad, but also specifically obliging the promotion of any HFSS products only to an adult audience (or at least a 16+ audience). Taking these obligations into the influencer contract, and highlighting them separately in correspondence with the influencer, may also prove important.
Furthermore, utilising appropriate age targeting tools on each social media platform will help ensure that HFSS ads are not directed at an under‑16 audience. It will also show to regulators that the advertiser is utilising the tools available to ensure compliance with HFSS regulations.