Ad group recommends changes to Cheerios' ads

by Jeff Gelski
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NEW YORK — The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended General Mills, Inc. discontinue promotion of Chocolate Cheerios through 5-second tags that are paired with broadcast advertisements for the company’s original Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios. Following a challenge to the advertising from Kellogg Co., the N.A.D. considered whether consumers could take away the message that the health benefits, soluble fiber from whole grain oats and the ability to help lower cholesterol, that are highlighted in the original Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios commercials also applied to new Chocolate Cheerios.

“The main portions of the challenged commercials emphasize health attributes that are not shared by the product promoted in the tag,” the N.A.D. said.

The N.A.D., the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, recommended General Mills discontinue the use of original Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios commercials in combination with the Chocolate Cheerios tag. The N.A.D. determined General Mills’ use of a heart graphic in packaging and Internet advertising for Chocolate Cheerios did not convey a false message about the cereal’s health benefits.

Minneapolis-based General Mills in an advertiser’s statement said while it believes the tags for Chocolate Cheerios “were executed appropriately, we will take N.A.D.’s recommendations into account as we develop new Cheerios products tags for use with Honey Nut Cheerios and original Cheerios advertising.”

Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., contended General Mills has promoted the heart-health and cholesterol-lowering benefits of the soluble fiber and whole grain oats in Cheerios and argued General Mills took advantage of consumer recognition of its flagship brand in promoting Chocolate Cheerios, which does not contain the same soluble oat fiber.

The commercials for either original Cheerios or Honey Nut Cheerios featured a visual depicting a drop of chocolate falling from a spoon and a voiceover that stated, “Try new Chocolate Cheerios with a touch of delicious chocolate taste in every bite.” Once the drop reached the spoon, the Cheerios were transformed into Chocolate Cheerios.

With respect to Internet promotions, the N.A.D. concluded the use of a heart graphic did not convey a false implied message about the health benefits of Chocolate Cheerios but recommended General Mills modify the Chocolate Cheerios page of its web site so that a “lowering cholesterol” link does not appear directly to the Chocolate Cheerios box and as a part of the Chocolate Cheerios banner. The link instead should be a separate link at the top of the page where the general information on the “the Cheerios family” appears, according to the N.A.D. recommendation.

In regard to product packaging, the N.A.D. concluded General Mills’ use of the heart graphic and the claim “Great Taste Your Family Will Love, With the Goodness of Cheerios!” was not misleading.

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