Created by Leo Burnett, the TV ad featured a pregnant woman swimming accompanied by large on-screen text that stated: "made with Folic Acid feeding development." The small print read 'a serving of Special K cereals contains folic acid contributing to maternal tissue growth during pregnancy'.
The ASA received a complaint that challenged the claim that Kellogg's Special K contains folic acid that contributes to maternal tissue growth, as it felt it did not comply with advertising health claim regulation reflected in the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code.
Kellogg's said that because breakfast cereals are eaten daily, it is arguably an important source of folic acid for women of childbearing age - as 9-11% of daily intake of folic acid for women aged between 19 to 64 years comes from cereal.
Although Kellogg's admitted that consumers may initially connect folic acid with the reduction in the risk of NTDs (neural tube defects) in foetuses, it argued that this was not the only connection, and folic acid was scientifically proven to help maternal tissue growth of women in the childbearing age range.
The ASA accepted Kellogg's claims that folic acid is widely seen as a supplement for maternal tissue, but felt due to the visuals used in the ad, the connection with NTD and pregnancy was too strong. As a result, it banned the ad for exaggerating health benefits.
This isn't the first time Kellogg's Special K has fallen foul of the ASA. Back in 2016, it was pulled up for a TV ad that implied its cereal was 'nutritious,' without clearly signposting how the brand's health claims were substantiated.
Back in 2014, the ASA received 15 complaints, and ultimately an ad ban, for a Kellogg's Special K Multi Grain Porridge ad that wrongly claimed to contain 30% less fat than other porridges.