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Complaints Lodged

The Quebec Office de la protection du consommateur (OPC; Consumer Protection Bureau) lacks sufficient resources to monitor industry constantly. This is why, since 2006, the Weight Coalition has taken on the task of reporting practices that are in apparent breach of the law. Here is an overview of complaints lodged to date:

In 2015
M. Christie & Cadbury (sponsorship of the Village familial at the Carnaval de Québec)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Cadbury candies and chocolaty snacks and M. Christie cookies (e.g., Oreo, Chips Ahoy!) arouse the interest of children very much.
  • The M. Christie and Cadbury logos are ubiquitous in the Village familial at the Carnaval de Québec: They figure in particular on the games and pennants everywhere on the site. In addition to the logos, products (e.g., Oreo cookies) are on great display as well. Consequently, it does not constitute “low-key” sponsorship authorized under the law.
  • The Carnaval de Québec is very popular with children under 13 years of age, especially the Village M. Christie/Cadbury site, which is designed for this age group.

                      

OPC’s response: coming soon - investigation under way

 

Coca-Cola (ubiquitous presence of Minute Maid beverage logo at the ski-school slope and in the windows of the daycare of Mont Sainte-Anne in Quebec City)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • The Minute Maid logo refers to fruit beverages, punch, juice and lemonade manufactured by Coca-Cola. These sugar-sweetened beverages appeal strongly to children.
  • The Minute Maid logo appears on a variety of platforms, many of which are playful and feature childlike characters. The logo figures:
    • on panels with images that appeal to children (photos of children, multicoloured drawings), placed in the windows of the daycare;
    • on pennants and panels on the edges of the ski-school slope, many of which feature drawings of animals with a childlike quality;
    • on giant cans, small tunnels to go through and colourful banners with animals, which dot the ski-school slope and constitute obstacles children must get around.
  • The presence of games (e.g., tunnels, obstacles) featuring the Minute Maid logo increases the affective impact of this advertising on children.

              
                 
OPC’s response: investigation under way           


 

In 2014
Coca-Cola (advertising on the display listing the rules of the Jungle Aventure family entertainment centre in Laval

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • The advertising appears at the entrance to the main labyrinth for children 3 years of age or over. This location ensures the advertising is highly visible to children.
  • The image of the Coca-Cola bottle and the company’s logo accompany the rules of the entertainment centre presented in the form of coloured pictograms. These pictograms are intended in particular for young children who do not know how to read or who are just learning to do so.
  • The advertising is placed on the floor and, therefore, at eye level for young children.

 

                                  

 

OPC’s response: investigation under way

Krispy Kernels (face-in-hole photo board advertising at Granby Zoo)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • These snacks appeal to children.
  • These photo boards attract children, who like to stick their faces in the holes to be photographed and then want to see the result.
  • The board’s fictional setting features children at the zoo, including the brand’s mischievous character, and has a childlike quality.
  • Granby Zoo is very popular with children under 13 years of age. The rides in the area where the Krispy Kernels photo board is located are intended for young children and can be ridden at no extra charge, which ensures the presence of a large number of children in the area.

OPC’s response: investigation under way
 

Slush Puppie (advertising poster at Laval’s Family Day)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Slush is a sugar-sweetened beverage that appeals strongly to children and that is intended specifically for them.
  • The advertising poster is very large and placed on the ground, which ensures it is highly visible to children.
  • Featured on the poster is the brand’s character, a drawn dog with a childlike quality well known to kids. The dog is relishing a cup of slush.
  • Laval’s Family Day is a very popular event that attracts a large number of children under 13 years of age as many activities there are designed specifically for this age group.
     


 

OPC’s response: investigation under way

Slush Puppie (advertising parasols at Village du Père Noël in Val-David)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Village du Père Noël in Val-David is very popular with children under 13 years of age as the venue is designed for this age group.
  • The Slush Puppie advertising parasols are ubiquitous in the food court of this outdoor amusement park.
  • The brand’s character featured on the parasols is well known to kids. The dog is evidently enjoying slush, a beverage that appeals strongly to children.


                     

OPC’s response: investigation under way

Breyers (advertising parasols for frozen snacks and inflatable Klondike bear at Village du Père Noël in Val-David)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Village du Père Noël in Val-David is very popular with children under 13 years of age as the venue is designed for this age group.
  • The parasols feature the Breyers brand logo as well as images of frozen snacks that appeal to children.
  • Located near the entrance to this outdoor amusement park, the life-size Klondike bear attracts children, which accentuates the impact of the advertising it features.

                

OPC’s response: investigation under way
              
 

In 2013
Coca-Cola (Fanta sponsorship of and product placement at a water game at La Ronde)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Fanta is a sugar-sweetened beverage with a strong appeal for children.
  • In the water game, the brand is represented by various coloured childlike characters that are having fun and drinking bottles of Fanta (product placement).
  • The characters are placed at a height easily visible to children playing in the game and manipulating the mechanisms to activate the water.
  • La Ronde is a venue visited by numerous children under the age of 13 and the water games are very popular with younger kids. Moreover, a sign at the entrance indicates that little children must keep their diapers on in the Fanta zone.

                                                                                                                                                                                   

 

OPC’s response: investigation under way

Dare Foods (television advertising for Bear Paws – Morning Snack cookies)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Bear Paws – Morning Snack cookies are sugar-sweetened products that appeal to children.
  • The advertising uses numerous strategies aimed at children, including the use of child actors enjoying themselves presenting a stage play about the cookies and narration by a childlike voice. The use of playful props by the children in the advertising (e.g., balloons, oversized eyeglasses, crank, set made of children’s crafts, disguises), as well as the music, arouse the interest of children.
  • Children applaud when a giant Bear Paws box with a childlike logo of the brand is pushed onto the stage and children are seen relishing the cookies.
  • The advertising is run on various television channels at times when children under 13 years of age are likely to be watching.

OPC’s response: investigation under way

 

PepsiCo (sponsorship of the children’s Montgolfière ride of Méga-Parc at Galeries de la Capitale in Quebec City)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • The Pepsi logo, which covers each basket entirely as well as the core of the Montgolfière ride, is a salient element of the ride’s ornamentation.
  • Méga-Parc, which is the largest indoor amusement park in Quebec, has a strong appeal for children, all the more so that it is located in a very busy shopping mall.
  • The Montgolfière ride has a marked appeal for children.
  • The ride is located right next to the central skating rink at the intersection of two lanes, including the one that small children must take to get to the rides and games intended for younger kids. Hence, the ride is highly visible to children.
  • The application guide for sections 248 and 249 of the CPA indicates that the use of a logo to represent a good constitutes advertising, as does the mention of a sponsorship if it is not presented in a “low-key manner”. Consequently, the fact that the Pepsi logo on the children’s ride cannot be ignored makes it advertising.

                                                                

OPC’s response: investigation under way

Note: Once informed of the complaint, PepsiCo remedied the situation and removed all logos.

Queues de castor (advertising posters at La Ronde amusement park)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Queues de castor (BeaverTails) pastries, particularly those covered with chocolate and candies on the posters in question, strongly arouse the interest of children.
  • The two advertisements posted show very young children taking great pleasure in eating Queues de castor pastries covered with chocolate.
  • The fun, playful aspect of the product is strongly accentuated by the children’s heavily chocolate-stained fingers. This sends small kids the message that the product can be eaten with their fingers and that it contains an abundance of chocolate. These are two particulars that appeal to children.
  • The poster featuring a little girl stresses the abundance of chocolate with the writing “Avec plusss [sic] de chocolat!” (With even more chockolate [sic]). The spelling mistake is likely to draw children’s attention, particularly those learning to read.
  • Montreal’s La Ronde is an amusement park visited by a great number of children under the age of 13. Consequently, putting up posters outside the walls of the restaurant located in one of the main food courts allows reaching a great many kids.
     

OPC’s response: investigation under way

Note: Once informed of the complaint, Queues de castor remedied the situation. In July 2014, changes were made to the posters.
 

Saputo (Igor Jungle website)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • In the section of the website titled “Planificateur de fêtes” (party planner)/”Par ici les invitations” (This way for invitations), a charming gorilla named Igor appeals directly to children to produce invitation cards for their friends. The Igor cereal bars logo and a drawing of the trademark gorilla appear on each invitation.
  • According to the website, Igor children’s party invitations are intended for children 3 to 9 years of age.
  • Upon completing the invitation, children are invited to visit the "Coloriage" (colouring) section of the website. The Igor logo and the trademark gorilla appear on all of the drawings proposed. In the case of the Halloween-themed drawing, the Igor cereal bar is depicted as a treat.
  • The company has taken no measures to discourage children under the age of 13 from visiting its website and the sections that appeal to them.

OPC’s response: investigation under way

Note: After the complaint was lodged, the website at www.igorjungle.com was shut down. It need be pointed out that this company had already pleaded guilty to advertising to children in 2009.
 

In 2012
McDonald’s (“McKids Adventures: Get Up and Go with Ronald” DVD)

Distributed in Quebec stores, this children’s DVD features Ronald McDonald, the company’s trademark character, sporting the golden “M” in a conspicuous fashion. Throughout the program, Ronald is accompanied by child actors who play with him and express their affection and admiration for him.

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • The entire DVD hosted by McDonald’s trademark character has a marked appeal for children and is intended specifically for them, as evidenced by the “General” rating and the “For children” tag of the Régie du cinéma du Québec. Moreover, several strategies are used to arouse the interest of children: lively music, magic performed by the trademark character, vivid colours, child actors, and more.
  • The McDonald’s logo is constantly in sight as it figures on the front and back of the clothes worn by the trademark character, as well as on his helmet, when needed.
  • The trademark character comes across as a funny, kind, affectionate and empathic hero who teaches, encourages and comforts the children, aside from practising magic. The children’s admiration for him is unquestionable. Moreover, the program’s credits suggest that the trademark character is real as the name of the actor playing the role is not given: What is indicated, instead, is that Ronald McDonald is played by “himself”.
  • On numerous occasions, the children can be heard expressing their joy, thereby reinforcing the association between the logo, the festive mood, and fun.

OPC’s response: investigation under way

Monster Energy (Shrine Circus sponsorship)
  • The Monster Energy logo presented at different moments during the first act of Shrine Circus 2012
    • During the balancing act with motorcycle and ATV-quad jumps, one of the artists does a backflip off a ramp plastered with the Monster Energy logo on both sides for maximum spectator visibility. This Monster Energy ramp is moved to the front after the action has ended and the theme music from the movie “Top Gun” begins to play to announce the importance of what is to follow.
    • The Monster Energy logo is visible also on one of the motorcycles.

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Although Monster Energy is a product not recommended for children and adolescents, this sugar-sweetened soft drink is likely to arouse the interest of children under the age of 13.

  • The Monster Energy logo is spotlighted by staging that seizes the attention of children.
  • The large amount of space occupied by the logo on the ramp means that it cannot be ignored.
  • Promoting Monster Energy at a magical moment of the show is likely to create a positive emotional connection with the brand and the sugar-sweetened beverage it sells.
  • Circus shows are an important event for children. Consequently, a sizable part of the audience is composed of children under the age of 13.
     

OPC’s response: investigation under way

Red Bull and Coca-Cola (product placement in the movie “The Muppets”)
  • Product placement in the Disney feature “The Muppets”
    • Coca-Cola: As Kermit is being told that       
      the Muppets studio is in jeopardy, a funny
      robot interrupts the plot to offer the                   
      characters something to drink. He carries
      on his tray four cans of Coke and
      Tab–brands owned by Coca-Cola–and asks
      “Might I offer you a drink? Tab? New Coke?”
      His offer is refused by the characters,
      who let him know that this is not the time,
      and the robot retreats in a huff, banging
      about clumsily here, there and everywhere as he complains: “Bummer. Oh! Gag me with a spoon”. This amusing scene, in which soft drinks appear on screen for some 20 seconds, is bound to arouse the interest of young children.
       
    • Red Bull: When Mr. Richman                        
      realizes that the Muppets might succeed
      in saving their studio, he gets angry and
      finishes off a can of Red Bull, which he
      crushes and adds to the pile of empties
      already before him. Though the brand is not as clearly distinguishable, it remains
      recognizable. It should be noted that Mr. Richman is presented a little earlier in the film as a rich, cool and powerful man when he breaks into a rap that kids can sing along with as the lyrics run across the bottom of the screen karaoke style. In the song, the back-up singers chime in with “Just how great it is to me him” as the character exclaims: “Oh! It’s great to be me, yeah”. These qualifiers used for the character hooked on Red Bull can subconsciously be projected onto the brand.

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • The sugar-sweetened beverages placed in the film are likely to appeal to children as they are presented at a key moment in the movie. Moreover, Coke is presented in a funny manner, which is bound all the more to arouse the interest of children.
  • The Muppets, which was presented in Quebec theatres at the end of 2011 and which is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray, is a movie intended especially for children.
  • The OPC has already established that product or brand placement in a cinematic work intended for children that clearly identifies a product placed and consumed by its characters can be considered as advertising prohibited under the CPA.

OPC’s response: investigation under way


 

Red Bull (“Flying Pigs” web ad)
  • A web ad featuring a young boy who is given permission to go to “a gentleman’s club” thanks to Red Bull.

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Although Red Bull is a product not                    
    recommended for children and adolescents,
    this sugar-sweetened soft drink is likely to
    arouse the interest of young people,
    including those under the age of 13.
  • The web ad is presented in a style likely
    to appeal to children in that it takes
    the form of a cartoon, features a child,
    and presents the product as instrumental in the transgression of a prohibition and the satisfaction of one’s desires. The fact that the advertisement is itself qualified as prohibited (prohibited on television) can also attract certain young people.

 

OPC’s response: investigation under way
 

Red Bull (advergames)

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Though Red Bull is a product not recommended
    for children and adolescents, this sugar-
    sweetened soft drink is likely to arouse the
    interest of young people, including those under
    the age of 13.
  • Using games for marketing purposes is a form
    of advertising likely to reach young people in
    particular. In the case in point, ease of execution,
    bright colours and the possibility of building one’s own vehicle (soapbox racer, airplane or motocross) in a variety of funny shapes (e.g., a pig) are some of the elements that appeal strongly to children.
  • Though children do not have the capacity to realize it, the repeated perception of a brand logo can develop in them a preference for the brand. This constitutes a form of advertising. Moreover, the fact of perceiving the logo in the context of a fun game in particular can accentuate the affective tie to the brand. The fact that cans of Red Bull must be picked up in the course of the game as vital fuel for the racers constitutes advertising as well.

OPC’s response: investigation under way
 

Sprite and Gatorade (product placement in the NBA2K1 video game
  • Sprite and Gatorade logos visible regularly during a game of NBA2K11. For example:
    • a Sprite banner off the side of the court
    • “G” and “Gatorade” logos on signs in the stands and on the scoreboard

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages, such as Gatorade, are products that arouse the interest of young people, including those under the age of 13.
  • Video games have a great power of attraction and increase the possibility of reaching young people in large numbers and repeatedly. Though NBA2K11 is not intended solely for children under the age of 13, it is recommended for ages 6 and up. This makes it possible to reach a large number of children.
  • Though children do not have the capacity to realize it, the repeated perception of a brand logo can develop in them a preference for the brand. This constitutes a form of advertising. Moreover, the fact of perceiving the logo in the context of a fun game in particular can accentuate the affective tie to the brand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OPC’s response: investigation under way
 

In 2010
Kellogg's Froot Loops
  • T.V. advertisement
  • Date: January 6, 2010
  • Time: 8:20 a.m.
  • Program: Salut bonjour

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • The food product itself (coloured sweetened rings) and its packaging do not fail to draw the attention of children, and though Froot Loops cereals are not directed exclusively at children, they have a definite appeal for them.
  • The advertising uses 3 children as actors and childish language and representations, and the treatment leaves no doubt as to the target group.
  • Although “Salut bonjour” is not a children’s program, the time of broadcasting in question, namely, 8:20 a.m., suggests however, on the basis of the Application Guide for the Quebec Consumer Protection Act, that the percentage of viewers aged 2 to 11 years represents 15% or more of the total.

Response from the OPC: A letter was sent to Kellogg's to request that they follow the law prohibiting advertising to children.

Maple Leaf (Top Dog)
  • T.V. advertisement
  • Date: 22 juillet 2010
  • Time 4:34 p.m.
  • Program: Hot Wheels: battle force 5
  • Broadcaster: Teletoon

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Top DogsTM by Maple LeafTM are not strictly destined for children under age thirteen (13), but they are particularly attractive for children. At the end of the ad, the message says "a delight for children". 
  • Children under age thirteen (13) are presented in the advertisement, eating a hot dog with great enthusiasm.
  • The program shown at the time the ad was seen, Hot Wheels: battle force 5, is a children's show.
McDonald’s (Happy Meal)
  • T.V. advertisement
  • Date: 22 juillet 2010
  • Time: 7:27 a.m.
  • Program: Johnny Test
  • Broadcaster: Télétoon

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Le Happy Meal Snack Wrap Grilled Chicken is product made for children under thirteen (13) years and is presented in that way by McDonald’s.
  • The way the advertising message is presented: childish conception.
  • The timing and place the advertisement is presented: the program, Johnny Test, is a children's show.
McDonald's (Shrek-themed drinking glasses promotion)
  • T.V. advertisement
  • Date: May 23, 2010
  • Time: 10:20 a.m.
  • Program: Les Mélodilous à Télé-Québec

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • The Shrek-themed drinking glasses offered by McDonald’s restaurants constitute a product intended exclusively for children and have a marked appeal for them.
  • The advertising uses animated cartoon characters from the movie Shrek, which particularly arouse children’s interest.
  • The program where the advertising in question was seen, that is, Les Mélodilous, is a children’s program.

Response from the OPC: The complaint was dismissed as the product was removed and that advertising was not represented. A letter was sent to McDonald's to request that they obey the law.
 

Pizza Hut (children's menu)
  • T.V. advertisement
  • Date: 22 juillet 2010
  • Time: 7:15 a.m.
  • Program: Johnny Test
  • Broadcaster: Télétoon

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • The children's menu at Pizza HutTM restaurants consitutes, as the name suggests, a product intended exclusively for children and is attractive to them.
  • The way the advertising message is presented: childish conception.
  • The timing and place the advertisement is presented: the program, Johnny Test, is a children's show.
In 2009
Chaotic

Chaotic

  • Energy drink targeted primarily to children
  • Product associated with a website, a television program and collection cards
  • Purchase of a Chaotic drink comes with a code that allows accessing a website and playing online.

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • The product is intended primarily for children, including those under 13 years of age.
  • The fact that the product is associated with a website and a television program where children can play with their favourite characters online or with cards clearly demonstrates the prohibited target group of this advertising practice.
  • Purchase of a “Chaotic” drink comes with a code that allows accessing a website. There is reason to believe that more than 15% of this website’s visitors are children under 13 years of age.

Response from the OPC: The complaint was dismissed because it should have been accompanied by additional details concerning the sale of the product: buying process, point-of-purchase display and stores, etc. This confirms the difficult process of lodging a complaint for consumers. 

Nickels

Nickels

Kid’s menu presented in the form of a small colouring book

  • given to children
  • in Nickels restaurants
  • promotes Kool-Aid, Jell-O and Kraft Dinner

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Though Nickels offers a variety of products, the product advertised is a kid’s meal, which is to say a product intended exclusively for children.
  • The presentation is designed directly for children (drawings, message) and highlights the appeal of two gifts (Kool-Aid and Jell-O chocolate pudding) that are intended directly for children.
  • The place the advertising is disseminated is a restaurant where no doubt 5% or more of the customers are children given the choice of advertising method.

Response of the OPC: The complaint was dismissed because it was lacking in evidence. When the OPC investigated the complaint, this menu was no longer being distributed.

Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut

  • T.V. advertisement
  • Date: July 15, 2009
  • Time: 7:26 p.m.
  • Program: Les gags

Why believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Though pizza is a family product, the advertising spotlights one product above all, namely, a frozen dessert with candies, designed to appeal particularly to children and to arouse their interest.
  • Given the near exclusive use of children and a treatment appealing to them, the advertising is designed particularly to arouse the interest of children.
  • Given the program’s nature and time of broadcasting, there is reason to believe that children compose at least 15% of its viewers.

Response from the OPC: The complaint was dismissed because, according to the OPC, the timing of the advertisement's broadcast does not correspond to an audience partially composted of chidren (15%).
 

Kentucky Fried Chicken

Kentucky Fried Chicken

  • T.V. advertisement
  • Date: July 15, 2009
  • Time: 7:23 p.m.
  • Program: Les gags

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Though the product is not exclusively intended for children, it nevertheless has a marked appeal for them (fast food).
  • Through its predominant use of children, the advertising is designed to arouse particularly the interest of children.
  • Given the program’s nature and time of broadcasting, there is every reason to believe that children make up at least 15% of its audience.

Response from the OPC: The complaint was dismissed because, according to the OPC, the timing of the advertisement's broadcast does not correspond to an audience partially composted of chidren (15%).

Trident

Trident

  • T.V. advertisement
  • Date: July 15, 2009
  • Time: 7:25 p.m.
  • Program: Les gags

Why we believe it constitutes advertising directed at children?

  • Though not intended exclusively for children, the product nevertheless has a marked appeal for them (chewing gum).
  • The ad’s treatment is directly designed to arouse in particular the interest of children.
  • Given the program’s nature and time of broadcasting, there is reason to believe that children compose at least 15% of its viewers.

Response from the OPC: The complaint was dismissed because, according to the OPC, the timing of the advertisement's broadcast does not correspond to an audience partially composted of chidren (15%).

In 2007-2008

The Weight Coalition lodged other complaints that led the OPC to take legal action and that culminated in guilty pleas by the companies concerned.
 

Have you seen advertising that appears to be directed at children under 13 years of age? Contact us or lodge a complaint at the Office de la protection du consommateur website.