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Why Have These Special K Ads Been Banned In The UK?

Photo: James A. Guilliam/Getty Images.
Kellogg’s has been banned from promoting its Special K cereal as “nutritious” and “full of goodness” to UK audiences.

The cereal is marketed as a low-calorie option for people trying to lose weight and is perhaps best known for the red-dressed women in its adverts, who in the past were used to promote eating cereal twice a day instead of balanced meals as part of the “Special K Challenge”.

However, the brand’s healthy credentials have been questioned. Adverts promoting two of its products on TV and online have been banned by the the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as they were not supported by a “specific authorised health claim”, The Guardian reported.

A TV ad for Special K porridge promoted it as a “five grain super porridge full of goodness”, while the Nutri K flakes used in Special K cereal were touted as “a nutritious start to your day” on the company’s website.

The ASA received a complaint about these health claims and ruled that they weren’t backed up by a specific health benefit for the consumer.

For example, one of the adverts claimed Special K contains vitamin B2, which is good for skin, but the ASA said this wasn’t linked to the general claim that the cereal is “full of goodness”, reported The Guardian.

The ASA said: “We therefore considered the specific health claim did not appear with or immediately following the general health claim ‘full of goodness’. As such, we considered it did not accompany the general health claim and in that regard, the ad breached the [advertising] code.”

The assertion online that Special K is “nutritious” also wasn’t obviously backed up by a specific health benefit, the ASA said. Instead, consumers had to click through two web pages to find information about the specific health benefits of Nutri K flakes.

The ASA said the adverts must not be shown again and that Kellogg’s must “ensure that relevant authorised health claims accompanied any general health claims that featured in their advertising”.

The company has already seen declining sales of cereal in the US, and in a “clean eating” culture that encourages people to shun processed cereals in favour of more wholesome alternatives, this ruling doesn’t bode well.