As we approach the Easter weekend, CAP has issued its customary guidance on making sure that Easter-related promotions comply with the CAP Code, especially in relation to the rules about advertising HFSS products. CAP's guidance highlights the three key issues to be aware of:

Make a reasonable estimate of likely demand

Before embarking on a promotion, advertisers should always make a reasonable estimate of the likely demand, taking into account factors such as the popularity of different products at different times of year. 

And if there's not enough promotional items to meet the estimated demand, or if customers need to make a purchase to qualify for the promotional item, advertisers must make any significant conditions and limitations on availability explicitly clear in the ad - just including the words "subject to availability" isn't enough by itself. 

Crucially, advertisers should document any assessment of demand as this will be an important part of any defence in the event of an ASA investigation.

Don't cause (significant or widespread) offence

As the guidance points out, Easter holds religious significance for many consumers, particularly those of the Christian faith. The ASA has always acknowledged that the ad codes allow for the fact that some ads may be distasteful and that it's not always easy to draw the line between an ad being in bad taste and being offensive. 

Advertisers therefore need to tread carefully when using religious themes and imagery in advertising, especially if there is a humorous angle. Important factors to consider include context in which the ad will appear, the product being advertised, the likely audience and, of course, the prevailing standards in society. 

Don't forget sector-specific requirements

The ASA reminds advertisers that there are specific promotional rules that apply to advertising that is directed at children or which feature HFSS products - i.e. those high in fat, salt or sugar.  

The CAP Code says:

  • HFSS product ads targeted through their content directly at pre-school or primary school children must not include licensed characters or celebrities popular with children.  
  • HFSS product ads targeted through their content directly at pre-school or primary school children must not include a promotional offer.
  • HFSS product ads must not be directed at people under 16 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear, and no medium should be used to advertise HFSS products if more than 25% of its audience is under the age of 16. 

Advertisers of HFSS products therefore need to be careful in their choice of media and using characters popular with children. This is particularly important in light of the current focus on HFSS products - don't forget, we have new HFSS regulations coming into force in October this year...