The advertising watchdog has upheld complaints against a campaign from Bakers Delight, with experts saying the ruling is a reminder to SMEs about the importance of using language effectively in promotions.
Complainants took issue with a Bakers Delight campaign which ran on digital billboards in various stores across Australia, promoting a range of finger buns adorned with icing and miniature chocolate MnMs.
The limited edition range was accompanied by such taglines as, “School lunches? Problem solved”, “Your lunchbox solution”, and “Be a lunchbox hero”.
Complainants told the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) they did not approve of the ad’s message, saying it was “appalling”.
“Bakers Delight is specifically targeting children to include M&M finger buns as a day-to-day lunch box item. Such products, should rarely (or preferably never) be eaten by children, let alone promoted and ‘normalised’ as an everyday food that is appropriate to take to school,” wrote one complainant.
“At a time when Australia is facing an obesity crisis, it seems incredibly irresponsible and unethical to market such products to children and their carers.”
In a response to the complaints, Bakers Delight defended the advertisements and claimed they were not intended to be marketed to children. Instead, it said, the ads were aimed at “busy” parents to encourage them to buy Bakers Delight “during the back to school rush period”.
“The campaign is targeted to the parents of school aged children, to encourage them to consider our products for their children. There are no campaign elements that are targeted to children, everything is considered from the parent’s point of view,” the company said.
Bakers Delight also said the advertisements were promoting the product as an “occasional treat”, rather than as a product for everyday consumption.
“It is our intention to promote this product as a limited time only treat for occasional eating,” the company said.
However, the board upheld the complaints, stating the advertisement infringed on section 2.2 of the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) Food Code.
“The Board noted that the advertisement depicts finger buns and savoury buns and that whilst designed to be options for a lunch box treat or occasional lunch alternative, this is not clear in the advertisement,” the ASB said.
“The majority of the Board noted that the reader may interpret the advertisement as being a suggestion of some items to go in the lunch box, however, in the view of the majority, the text ‘your lunchbox solution’ strongly suggests this is all you could have.”
In response, Bakers Delight said the advertising campaign had already finished and would not be run again.
It’s all about the language
Advertising expert at CP Communications Catriona Pollard told SmartCompany Bakers Delight’s use of specific language led to the ASB’s scrutiny.
“Bakers Delight should have thought of their target audience, as parents are very conscious of things being advertised to their children,” Pollard says.
“The wording surrounding this is very specific. If they had advertised it in a different way and with different language they’d probably able to get away with it.”
Pollard believes the use of the terms “solution” and “solved” contributed to the board’s decision to uphold the complaint, and although the company said it was aimed to be an “occasional treat”, the wording in the ad did not reflect that.
“If it’s a treat rather than something to put in a school lunch, the language around that has to specify it, as it’s much less offensive,” she says.
Despite this, Pollard was surprised the ASB chose to uphold the case, stating chocolate on fingerbuns isn’t typically considered offensive.
Bakers Delight was also surprised its ad came under scrutiny, and said in the case report it was “disappointed” it came under the ASB’s attention.
“Bakers Delight prides itself on its vast array of healthy products on offer, made fresh every day in each and every Bakers Delight bakery throughout Australia and we are disappointed in ourselves for coming to the ASB’s attention with this campaign,” the company said.
For brands wanting to steer clear of the ASB’s jurisdiction, Pollard advises vigilance when it comes to word choice and the audience you’re marketing to.
“Ultimately comes down to the language used. Brands can still advertise these types of confectionary and foods, but they need to be very specific about the language they use, and be aware of the sensitivity of audiences they’re targeting as well,” she says.
SmartCompany contacted Bakers Delight but did not receive a response prior to publication.