General Mills Asked to Nix Chocolate Cheerios Promo

An advertising review board recommended that General Mills discontinue five-second Chocolate Cheerios broadcast "tags" and slightly modify the product Web page-but it determined that a heart graphic contained in the cereal's packaging and Internet advertising did not convey a false message.

An advertising review board associated with the Better Business Bureau has recommended that General Mills stop promoting its Chocolate Cheerios in conjunction with television ads that boast the health benefits associated with the company's original Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios.

The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD) on Wednesday said it recommended that Golden Valley-based General Mills discontinue the five-second Chocolate Cheerios “tags” that follow broadcast ads for the original Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios commercials. The broadcast tags in question contain a visual depicting a drop of chocolate falling from a spoon and landing in a spoon of regular Cheerios-thereby transforming them into Chocolate Cheerios.

General Mills has long promoted the heart-health and cholesterol-loweringbenefits offered by the soluble fiber and whole grain oats in Cheerios.

The Kellogg Company, a General Mills competitor, challenged the Chocolate Cheerios promotion, contending that the company took advantage of consumer recognition of its flagship brand when it promoted the new product-which it said does not contain the same soluble oat fiber as the original Cheerios.

In its decision, NAD acknowledged that it is common for an advertiser to introduce a new product with a tag that promotes an already-successful product. In this case, however, “the main portions of the challenged commercials emphasize health attributes which are not shared by the product promoted in the tag,” NAD said in a statement.

In an e-mailed statement, General Mills said Thursday that the Chocolate Cheerios tags aired in conjunction with the regular and Honey Nut Cheerios commercials “no longer appear in connection with that advertising.”

“While General Mills continues to believe the tags were executed appropriately, we will take NAD's recommendations into account as we develop new tags for use with Cheerios and Honey Nut Cheerios advertising,” the company continued.

In addition to its recommendation that General Mills discontinue the broadcast tags, NAD also recommended that General Mills modify the Chocolate Cheerios page of its Web site so that a “lowering cholesterol” link does not appear directly next to Chocolate Cheerios-related information and images.

However, the organization did not take issue with a heart graphic contained in the packaging and Internet advertising for Chocolate Cheerios. NAD said that the graphic does not convey a false message about the cereal's health benefits and was not misleading to consumers.

General Mills is Minnesota's seventh-largest public company based on its fiscal-year 2009 revenue, which totaled $14.7 billion. The company reported $14.8 billion in revenue for its 2010 fiscal year.