The advert constituted a poster for Coco Pops featuring a picture of the cartoon character Coco the monkey dressed in school uniform, with the wording attached: “Ever thought of Coco Pops after school?”
Some complainants, including UK advocacy group Sustain, challenged whether the advert was irresponsible because they believed it encouraged children to eat two bowls of breakfast cereal a day.
The UK advertising watchdog said that it investigated the advert for Coco Pops under regulation related to food and soft drink product advertisements and children but did not find the advert to be in breach of these codes.
The ruling from the ASA stated that it considered that the cartoon image and, in particular the school uniform, meant that the advert in question was likely to be seen as targeted directly at children.
But the watchdog said the advert was also unlikely to be seen as encouraging excessive consumption or encouraging unhealthy dietary practice in children and that it considered it unlikely that readers would infer from the advert that it was appropriate to eat two bowls of Coco Pops a day:
"We noted the ad referred only to specifically consuming Coco Pops after-school and did not refer to other times, such as breakfast, when they might be consumed."
Additionally, said the ASA, it did not uphold the complaints about the advert as though Coco Pops, containing 34 g of sugar per 100 g, are high in sugar according to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) guidance, the cereal was usually eaten in a 30 g serving and, said the body, there were no recognised guidelines as to what could be classed as 'high' in sugar in smaller quantities.
The ASA's ruling also stated that research published by Kellogg's indicated that children already ate an after-school snack that would usually contain a greater number of calories, fat and sugar than cereal such as crisps, sweets and chocolate.
"We accepted that it was likely that Coco Pops would replace an after-school snack rather than serving as an additional eating occasion or replacing a main meal, and considered that, in those circumstances, a serving of Coco Pops with milk could be accommodated within a healthy balanced diet."
The watchdog said that it therefore concluded that it was not irresponsible to suggest Coco Pops might be eaten as an after-school snack.
The manufacturer argued that the advert did not mention consuming Coco Pops twice a day but only referred to it as a suitable snack for after-school consumption.
And Kellogg’s argued that should someone chose to have two bowls of Coco Pops in one day it would still be in accordance with their healthy eating guidelines because a bowl of Coco Pops was low in calories and saturated fat and was fortified with vitamins.
The company also cited the FSA recommendation that the inclusion of milk and fortified cereal could form part of a healthy balanced diet for a child.