Unilever limits the use of cartoons and bans influencers for F&B marketing to kids

One of the world's largest consumer good brands, Unilever, will now stop marketing and advertising foods and beverages to children under the age of 12 in traditional media, and below 13 on social media channels by the end of 2020.

The FMCG giant will be implementing controls concerning the placement and content of its ads, and will not use any influencers, celebrities or social media stars who primarily appeal to children under the age of 12. According to a blog post, Unilever said that it will also limit the use of cartoon characters. While consumers may still see some cartoon characters featured on point-of-sale materials, the company explained that it will only be used for products with a specific nutritional profile.

This comes as the World Health Organisation named childhood obesity as one of the most serious public health issues of the 21st century. Unilever said it aims to aid parents, caregivers and kids make informed choices about purchasing food and drinks, and to address the rise of social media, and the vast increase in products on sale.

Unilever's ice cream business will be leading the implementation of this approach and placing these new principles into practice.

Wall’s – the name behind brands such as Max, Paddle Pop, Twister and many more – will become the first global ice cream brand with a "Responsibly Made for Kids" promise, the company claimed. This new brand promise will be based on three pillars such as responsibly communicated, responsibly sold and responsibly developed. Wall's kids' ice creams will be:

  • Responsibly communicated - Advertising will be shifted to speak to parents and caregivers, whom Unilever considers to be the people who should be the decision-makers when it comes to children having a treat. In line with the company-wide pledge, Wall’s will not direct any marketing communications to kids under the age of 12, or under the age of 13 on social media.
  • Responsibly sold - As children under 12 will inevitably be exposed to its products, Unilever will introduce a ‘Responsibly Made for Kids’ logo on its point-of sale communications, such as product packs and price cards. This is in a bid to indicate which products are designed for children.
  • Responsibly developed - By the end of 2020, every ice cream in the kids’ range will have no more than 110 calories and a maximum of 12g of sugar per portion, and Unilever aims to continuously improve this.

“We at Wall’s believe that everyone deserves a little joyous treat from time to time and we strive to offer something for everyone. Our promise is a genuine commitment to make and market products to children responsibly. It is the promise of better ice cream and healthier, happier children. Both now and in the future,” said Matt Close, executive vice president, Global Ice Cream Category.

Unilever has often emphasised that it has been on the move to push for greater transparency in the influencer marketing space to combat fraud in the digital ecosystem and create better experiences for consumers. The FMCG giant first said in June 2018 that it will not work with influencers who buy followers, and that it will also prioritise partners that increase transparency and help eradicate bad practices throughout the whole ecosystem. The company described the scale and scope of influencer marketing to hold “increasing importance” in the marketing mix, as influencers have deep and direct connections with consumers.

Meanwhile, Unilever also recently initiated a strategic review of its global tea business amidst subdued consumer demand for black tea in developed markets. As such, brands such as Lipton, Brooke Bond and PG Tips will be put up for review. According to Unilever, its global tea business saw price-led growth, however volumes have been in decline in developed markets for several years due to changing consumer preferences. The sales of traditional black tea is the largest segment of the category, the FMCG giant said, adding that the company has since also expanded into the premium, fruit and herbal market in recent years.

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