Thursday, February 08, 2007

Why do baby food companies promote websites to mothers?

This may sound like a stupid question.

Unfortunately it is one that needs answering. Policy makers and those who want to excuse partnerships with companies that violate the World Health Assembly marketing requirements are sometimes remarkably lenient in their views of baby food company targeting of mothers. Even enforcement authorities such as the UK Advertising Standards Authority, let them get away with this on a systematic basis.

The reason this is an issue is that in the UK, where promotion of infant formula is banned, companies have developed their tactics to appear to comply with the letter of the law.

So you rarely see an advertisement explicitely for infant formula. Even the successful 2003 prosecution of Wyeth over an advertisement for SMA Gold became an 8-day argument because the advertisement did not include the words 'SMA Gold'. It included SMA, infant formula and had baby pictures, but, the company argued that it was legal because it didn't include the specific brand name. The judge disagreed and Wyeth now has a criminal conviction in the UK for illegal advertising. This is a story I will relate at length some day because I sat through much of the trial.

In the UK advertisements for follow-on formula are commonplace. They violate the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, but we argue they also break the law because they are de facto infant formula advertisements. The brand name used is often the same for the follow-on milk and the infant formula. The only difference between pack shots is usually the colour and the number highlighted - 1,2 and 3 appear, one of them is in bold. And they promote websites that have the full range. The ASA refuses to even investigate our complaints about follow-on milk advertisements. It refuses to consider websites arguing they are 'editorial' material not advertising copy. We argue they are an extension of the advertising campaigns that direct mothers to them for information.

Yesterday I gave some examples of Wyeth/SMA competitions promoting carelines and websites alongside the SMA brand name and the Progress follow-on formula.

Companies also promote their formula brand names, carelines and websites without referring to formula. There are leaflets in doctors clinics offering mothers the chance to win prizes simply by signing up to receive information from the company.

Bounty packs given to mothers in hospitals and Bounty website promotions are another way companies target mothers. For example, Hipp ran a promotion with Bounty, ostensibly for toddler foods.

All the above theories as to why companies target mothers are proved true by the information on Bounty's own website. The intention was to get mothers to go to the website where the full range of products, including formula, was promoted.


HiPP Organic targeted expectant mums and mums with children at toddler age through an online campaign.

Taking an integrated approach, their objective was to engage expectant and new mums through an educational campaign.


HiPP Organic wanted to target mums-to-be and mums with toddlers with a view to increasing awareness of the HiPP brand and the benefits of eating organically during pregnancy and for feeding toddlers on organic food.

Therefore, they were keen to tie up with websites that catered for these demographics.

HiPP were also keen to drive traffic to the HiPP website in order to increase awareness and understanding of the full product range, including the HiPP Organic milks range.
The results

The aim of the campaign for HiPP was to engage with consumers with a view to raising awareness of the HiPP brand and the benefits of organic foods. The success was measured by the number of users who clicked through the various links and viewing the featured articles, competition and survey entries, as well as registration with HiPP.

* Online advertising - 750,008 impressions , 1,275 click throughs
* Delivered 6,953 click thrus to Your Pregnancy section (16.43% click thru rate)
* Delivered 20,288 click thrus to Your Toddler section (17.28% click thru rate)
* 19,765 competition entries

The Toddler survey received 10,482 entries with 90% of participants also registering with HiPP; a further 3,328 visitors registered with HiPP through the featured articles.
---quote ends

So mission accomplished for Hipp. What was it again:

"HiPP were also keen to drive traffic to the HiPP website in order to increase awareness and understanding of the full product range, including the HiPP Organic milks range."

Ah, yes. Now we know.

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