No, No, Nomad Foods: ASA Bans ‘Misleading’ Birds Eye Ad

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the United Kingdom has ruled that a Nomad Foods Europe TV advertisement promoting Birds Eye “Stir Your Senses” ready meals exaggerates portion sizes and thus must be prohibited from future broadcast to prevent consumers from being misled.

Taste your senses Birds Eye advertThe commercial, initially aired and digitally distributed during January of 2016 in Britain, showed a woman in a kitchen heating a pasta dish in a skillet as a man stands by her side observing. A packet of the product, placed next to the stove, is picked up by the woman and examined. The ad featured images of two other ready meals in the product line being stirred in frying pans. About 10 seconds into the 19-second spot, a woman in different clothing was seen sitting down to eat one of the products from a bowl.

ASA logoASA, an independent regulator of advertising across all media in the UK, acted after receiving a complaint from Havas London, an advertising agency with a client list that includes baby food maker Ellas’s Kitchen and Arla. It concluded that the Birds Eye ad was misleading because it exaggerated the portion size of the product.

Response from Nomad

Birds Eye parent company Nomad Foods Europe affirmed that, in the opening scene, the pack shown next to the pan contained Tagliatelle con Porcini, which incidentally was voted Product of the Year in the 2016 Consumer Survey of Product Innovation. A company spokesman explained that, like other meals in the range, it is a single-serve product for adults. It was pointed out that the ad showed two adults in the kitchen while the Tagliatelle was being prepared.

The Feltham, England-headquartered company further explained that because it was a single-serve product, consumers would expect more than one package to be prepared to feed the couple. They had used single portions of the product for the bowl scenes to ensure they did not exaggerate the “one portion” when someone was seen eating on their own. However, slightly more volume was used for the pan shots to “bring life to the ingredients” and to reflect the two-person occasion dramatized in the opening scene, according to Nomad Foods.

taglatelle v2Clearcast, the body that checks ad pitches against the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising to make sure that messages are not misleading, harmful or offensive, cleared the script at pre-production stage with the proviso that the advertiser took care to accurately represent the contents of one standard pack and that the quantity and quality of the product was not exaggerated. It was under the impression that when it received the finished ad, the guidance had been followed and the ad was approved on that basis.

The ASA noted that the opening scene focused on a couple preparing the product, and that only one pack was shown. At the end of the ad, it says that the same couple was briefly shown sitting at the table eating.

“We considered that consumers were likely to interpret that to mean that the amounts shown in the ad were equivalent to one packet of the product,” said a statement issued by advertising watchdog agency after the review.

“We understood from the advertiser that slightly more than one packet was used in the pan shots in the ad, but that only one packet was used for the bowl shots. We purchased the Tagliatelle con Porcini product and cooked it according to the instructions on the packet.

“We considered that both the pan and bowl shots in the ad appeared to contain more pasta and mushrooms when compared to one real-life serving (one packet) of the product. Because of that, and because viewers were likely to expect the amounts shown in the ad to be equivalent to one packet of the product, but that was not always the case, we concluded that the ad exaggerated the portion size of the product and was therefore misleading.”

ASA ruled on June 1 that the ad breached BCAP Code rule 3.1 (Misleading Advertising). Nomad Foods Europe was told not to broadcast the spot again in its current form and “not to exaggerate the portion sizes of their products in future.”

[Editor’s note: When viewed the advert online on June 2 there was no sign of the man sitting at the dining table at the end of the scene.]