Special K ad banned for exaggerating health claims for pregnant women

The ASA has ruled that an ad for Special K misleadingly implied it could help prevent birth defects in foetuses.

A TV ad for Kellogg's Special K implying it could help the health of pregnant women and the development of their babies has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for being misleading.

The TV ad, which was created by Leo Burnett and aired last April, featured a pregnant woman swimming, accompanied by on-screen text that read "made with folic acid feeding development". Smaller copy at the bottom of the screen added: "A serving of Special K cereals contains folic acid contributing to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy." The ad contained various phrases linked to healthy pregnancy, such as "feeding strength", "feeding energy" and "feeding recovery".

The single complainant challenged the health claims in the ad, arguing they contravened the CAP Code around health claims made in marketing by food manufacturers.

Kellogg countered, arguing that because breakfast cereals were consumed daily, they were an important means for women of childbearing age to maintain folic acid levels.

The ASA accepted some of the claims made in the ad and about the Kellogg's product, such as that folic acid was "widely understood to be a supplement or ingredient in food which had benefits in terms of contributing to foetal health".

But the watchdog ultimately felt that the key connection consumers would make with folic acid was its role in reducing birth defects such as NTDs. That connection was reinforced by the claims and visuals used in the ad.

The ASA concluded that the ad exaggerated the health benefits of the product and was in breach of the code. Kellogg was told the ad could not appear again in its current form and that the company should not exaggerate health claims in the future.

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