Pringles-owner Kellogg’s is dropping advertisements for the snacks from the popular PE With Joe exercise sessions on YouTube, after the fitness classes – originally aimed at adults – were extended to children during the lockdown.
The Advertising Standards Authority has decided not to pursue a formal regulatory investigation into the issue following one complaint, but health campaigners accused the food company of “irresponsibly” advertising Pringles to families on Joe Wicks’s Body Coach YouTube channel.
At the height of lockdown in April, a “pre-programme” ad for Pringles appeared to an unspecified number of the hundreds of thousands of children (and their parents) who tune in to PE with Joe online every weekday morning.
The health campaign groups Action on Salt and Sugar and Children’s Food Campaign are urging all food and drink companies to refrain from advertising any food or drink high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) before 9pm across all media platforms during the coronavirus pandemic.
They say this should be until the government can revert to plans to introduce a 9pm TV and online watershed on junk food advertising – part of its childhood obesity plan measures which have been paused while Public Health England (PHE) focuses on tackling Covid-19.
Under current government rules, no food and drink brands are allowed to promote “less healthy” products on children’s TV, or any media channel, with an audience of more than 25% under-16s.
However, loopholes for online platforms and social media, as well as for peak-time family TV viewing, mean junk food brands and digital marketers can currently find other tactics to lure children in.
Barbara Crowther, Children’s Food Campaign spokeswoman, said: “A pop, skip and a jump is a misleading and counterproductive message for industry to be pushing. Placing this ad directly before Joe’s hugely popular children’s daily PE class is a total betrayal of his work, and highly insensitive, irresponsible marketing. Children don’t need more salt, more saturated fat, more sugar, more excess calories being pushed to them during a pandemic, or indeed at any time.
“Children are even more of a captive audience during this lockdown, and we are hugely concerned they are still being subjected to unhealthy food advertising like this. The food industry and government focus should be on building up people’s health and resilience, not undermining it.”
Kellogg’s said in a statement: “It was not our intention to advertise Pringles to a younger audience. We are careful about where we place our advertising as we know we have a responsibility to act in the right way.
“Joe’s fitness channel has historically been aimed at adults which was the case when we placed our advert on it (booked on 18 March). His audience shifted recently with the launch of ‘PE With Joe’.
“As soon as we were made aware that the audience of his channel had changed, we took steps to remove our advertising and we have put measures in place to prevent a repeat.’’
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