Advertising watchdog upholds complaint against Patties Party Pies ad that played during the movie Frozen

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Food manufacturer Patties Foods has been slapped on the wrist after the advertising watchdog found one of its television advertisements promoted unhealthy food to children.

The ad in question aired on Channel 7 during a broadcast of the popular children’s movieFrozen and featured a boy dressed as an astronaut eating Patties Party Pies with his family.

The Advertising Standards Board received a complaint that objected to the ad on the grounds it was “directed primarily to children” and did not “represent a healthy dietary choice” consistent with government standards.

According to the ABC, the complaint was lodged by the Obesity Policy Coalition.

Patties denied that the ad was intended for children, arguing the ad was instead directed at parents who purchase household groceries.

Patties also pointed out Frozen is a film rated PG, meaning families would have been watching the film together.

The advertising watchdog ruled that while the ad was not directed primarily to children, it did appear in a media broadcast that is directed primarily to children and therefore the advertiser must comply with the Responsible Children’s Marketing Initiative.

Because of this, and considering the board ruled party pies do not constitute a “healthy dietary choice”, the board ruled Patties breached the code.

However, the watchdog dismissed the section of the complaint that claimed the ad promoted excess consumption or portion sizes disproportionate to community standards.

In response to the decision, Patties told the advertising watchdog it accepts the ruling but did not deliberately set out to market its party pies to children.

“Patties re-affirms its pledge that none of its media is, or will be, directly targeted at children under the age of 12,” Patties told the Ad Standards Board.

“In light of the complaint, Patties will work further with its media buyer and the broadcasters to address this issue to prevent the advertisement and future campaigns being screened at inappropriate times.”

Patties also said it will provide further training to its marketing team.

Nicole Reaney, director of InsideOut Public Relations, told SmartCompany this ad is difficult to judge because party pies are food mostly consumed by children.

“It would have been safer to have the mum as the hero and the voice-over,” Reaney says.

“It does position party pies as a snack, not an everyday meal option, but any food that isn’t nutritional cannot be targeted to children.”

Reaney says this case shows how important it is to get every detail right when it comes to marketing, especially to children.

“This just demonstrates when you air or publish content to the public, you can’t control how the message will be construed by various stakeholders,” she says.

“It’s important to test market messaging and communication ahead of finalising a campaign to identify any potential roadblocks.”

SmartCompany contacted Patties but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Broede Carmody is SmartCompany's senior reporter. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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