ASA rejects KFC complaints

Watchdog defends ad but criticises Atkins

In two food-related adjudications published today, the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a television advertisement for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which attracted a record number of complaints, was not likely adversely to affect children and did not breach the TV Advertising Standards Code, but that advertisements promoting the Atkins diet as ‘healthy’ should not be repeated.

The KFC advertisement featured three women in the office of an emergency helpline singing about the new KFC ‘Zinger Crunch Salad’ with their mouths full of the food. Subtitles were used to show what the women were saying. 

A record 1,671 complaints were received by the ASA from viewers concerned that the advertisement encouraged bad table manners by making it appear funny to talk or sing with a mouth full of food, brought the emergency services into disrepute, increased the risk of children choking, mocked those with speech impediments and encouraged overeating.  41 complaints were from parents who claimed that their children had copied the behaviour in the advertisement.

The ASA in its adjudication said that it understood viewers concerns, but was of the view that once taught good manners and how to eat so as to avoid choking, children were unlikely to be affected by this advertisement. The advertisement was not serious, and could have been set in any ’emergency helpline’, not necessarily that of the emergency services. It did not imply call centre staff were unprofessional. The ASA did not consider that the advertisement encouraged the mocking of those with speech impediments or overeating.

In another adjudication published today, the watchdog upheld a complaint about advertisements for the ‘Atkins diet’ which promoted it with the claim “Enjoy a healthier lifestyle”. The agency responsible for the advertisement supplied the ASA with 44 scientific studies it claimed showed the eating plan to be nutrionally balanced.

The ASA, however, found the studies to be of a limited and short-term nature and unable to support the long-term claim being made. Further, the low-carbohydrate diet conflicted with Government advice on achieving a balanced diet. As the agency had failed to provide evidence to support their claims they were asked not to repeat them. Any future advertising should be on an “availability-only” basis until the claims could be proven.