Coca-Cola pulls Fanta advert and app after Australian watchdog rules they were directed at children

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Fanta Crew featured in three campaigns, two of which the ASB say breach guidelines
The Fanta Crew featured in three campaigns, two of which the ASB say breach guidelines

Related tags: Advertising, Coca-cola

Coca-Cola has withdrawn a Fanta TV advert and mobile app, after Australia’s advertising watchdog ruled the campaigns breached advertising guidelines.

Coca-Cola says it will take the ‘valuable feedback’ on board and make adjustments to its future advertising.

Although Coca-Cola says its ‘Fanta Crew’ are depicted as teenagers, the Advertising Standards Board ruled the visuals, themes, and simplicity of the campaigns meant they were directed primarily at children.

The Responsible Children's Marketing Initiative (RCMI), of which Coca-Cola is a signatory, says companies should not advertise products to children under 12 in the media unless they represent healthy dietary choices.

Roller coaster ride

The TV commercial (which you can watch below) featured the animated characters of the Fanta Crew, riding on a roller coaster and then jumping into a pool filled with bubbles. The Advertising Standards Board considered this targeted younger children rather than teenagers or young adults.  

'Floyd' - one of the Fanta Crew

As part of the ‘Tastes Like’ campaign which focuses on the taste of Fanta, the ad featured analogies which compare the taste of Fanta to sensorial experiences (playing on product attributes such as ‘bubbles’ and ‘orange flavour’).

Coca-Cola has a policy of refraining from marketing products to children aged under 12. It said the advert was directed primarily to teenagers aged 15-17 years old, with the animated characters drawn to represent 17 year olds. It added the animation style was different to children’s programmes such as Peppa Pig, and that animation is used in shows aimed at adults, such as Family Guy and South Park.

But the Board ruled that, given the visuals, language and themes in the ad, it was ‘likely to be enjoyed by a general audience but… is most attractive to and directed primarily to children under 12.”

“Theme parks are aimed at a broad range of the community but, by using animated characters riding on a roller coaster and then jumping in to a pool filled with bubbles, the advertisement is targeting younger children rather than older teenagers or young adults,” ​the Board said in its ruling.

“The ad shows characters sipping their drink and then describing how it tastes, and actions that support the flavour (eg landing in a pool of bubbles). The theme is not complex and, in the Board’s view, young children would certainly understand the theme of a flavour tasting like something fantastical.

“In the Board’s view the cartoon characters are intended to represent young teenagers and - based on their own experiences with young children and teenagers -  these representations are more likely to appeal to younger children who aspire to be teenagers and would consider teenagers as role models rather than being of stronger specific interest to teenagers.

“The Board considered therefore that the visuals of the teenage characters are directed primarily to children under 12.”

Coca-Cola responded, “We are disappointed that the ASB has found the TV commercial, through its themes, visuals and language, is primarily directed to children. This decision is not reflective of our intention. We respect, however, the decision of the ASB and undertake not to broadcast [the commercial] going forward.”

Simplicity appeals to children, says ASB

The Fanta Fruit Slam 2 app featured the same Fanta Crew, again drawn to represent 17 year olds and appeal to the 15-17 year old age group, said Coca-Cola.

But the board believes the characters are most strongly directed to children in the 9 – 11 year old age bracket.

“The skill level of the game is very simple at the first stages, becoming more complex as the various stages are completed,” ​said the Board in its ruling.

“The theme of collecting points would be clear to young children who would enjoy getting high scores and then trying to better those of their friends. The overall impact of the game is very simplistic and young children would find the game more appealing than older teens because of its simplicity.”

A third complaint, regarding the Fanta Crew website, was dismissed. While it still included the Fanta Crew, the ASB said the content – such as downloads for desktop screensavers, mobile phone ringtones and wallpapers – was targeted to children over 12 years old. It also said the absence of interactive games limited the appeal to children under 12.

Coca-Cola respects ruling

A Coca-Cola South Pacific spokesperson told, “We respect and have taken on board the findings of the ASB decision, which will allow us to make positive adjustments to the campaign ongoing.

“We have a long-standing policy not to direct any marketing activity from any source to children under the age of 12, and have rigorously worked to ensure we meet this commitment.

“Two complaints relating to the Fanta ‘Tastes Like’ TV commercial and app were upheld and one relating to the website was dismissed. In the dismissed complaint the Board determined the characters were not primarily targeted at children.

“The basis of the upheld complaints related to theme, visuals and language used in the campaign, which provides us with valuable feedback.  

“The ASB decision also highlighted that we did not place the advertisement in any TV programs that were directly targeted at children.

“The Fanta ‘Tastes Like’ TV commercial and fruit slam app are no longer in use in Australia."

Related topics: Policy, Oceania, Beverages

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