Being a manufacturer of some of the world’s best loved chocolate, confectionery, chewing gum and food brands comes with a responsibility to market them in appropriate ways, especially to children and when using digital marketing channels.
Our Marketing Code
Because we want people to trust their favorite Mars brands, we have a comprehensive global Marketing Code that sets strict guidelines for the way we advertise food, chocolate, confections and gum products across all our markets. Read our full Marketing Code.
Compliance with our Marketing Code is audited annually by a third party in several countries. We are also part of an industry coalition, the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA), which commits member companies to upholding shared marketing standards.
Our Marketing organization is accountable for compliance with our Marketing Code. This ensures it is an integral part of their work. For example, Mars Chocolate has appointed a network of global Responsible Marketing Ambassadors. This group has clear objectives and local plans for their regions, such as ensuring that the right training and governance processes are in place and that all Mars Chocolate websites are fully compliant with our Marketing Code.
A global escalation process enables Associates to challenge and review ‘gray area’ marketing activities before they are launched. Examples arising through this process are later used in our Marketing Code training, so Associates can learn to deal with challenging, real-life scenarios. We have also adopted regional governance processes such as our Marketing Advisory Group (MAG) in the U.K. and Review Board in the U.S.
The Marketing Code is part of our Mars University learning program. We have developed various training courses for use during annual marketing meetings for developing strategy, conducting training and building skills. A basic e-learning module that is available to all Associates and agency partners makes clear that every Associate has a responsibility to comply with the code. Our policy is for all marketers and agency partners to pass the Marketing Code “Drivers’ License” before marketing our brands, and to ensure every Associate is personally accountable for responsible marketing.
Not Marketing to Children
One important aspect of the Mars Marketing Code is our commitment not to direct advertisements to children under 12 years of age. In 2007, we were the first food company to announce a global commitment to stop advertising food, snack and confectionery products to children under 125.
Specifically, we do not buy advertising time or space if more than a quarter of the audience is likely to be under 12 and we do not advertise on websites aimed at those under 13. Visitors to most of our web pages have to enter their birth date before downloading branded wallpapers or screensavers or participating in activities. Our advertisements and promotions never depict unaccompanied children under 12 eating snack foods, nor do we use them as spokespeople for our brands.
We continue to use established brand characters such as the M&M’S® Characters, but will refrain from creating new characters with child appeal for chocolate, gum and confections. The actions and speech of the M&M’S® Characters are intended for an audience over 12 years of age, and we continue to emphasize their mature personalities and adult characteristics.
Our Marketing Code also states that Mars does not place vending machines offering our snack food products in primary schools and does not offer Mars-branded educational materials or sponsor sporting events at primary schools, except in connection with established educational or public service messaging programs on responsible gum disposal and oral health care, or upon the request of schools.
We are a member of the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA) industry coalition, which commits member companies to upholding shared marketing standards. The IFBA monitors its members’ performance, and a third party audits a sample of ten countries with a global spread.
In addition to our global Marketing Code, we have signed country-specific marketing pledges around the world. We have made the following formal public commitments to responsible advertising, which encourage collective action:
The Responsible Children's Advertising Initiative of the Australian Food and Beverage Industry
Brazilian Commitment on Food and Beverage Advertising to Children
Canadian Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative
The EU Pledge
The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) Marketing and Advertising to Children Pledge
The General Assembly of Polish Association Alliance Advertising Council (Zwiazek Stowarzyszen Rada Reklamy - ZSRR)
India Pledge: "We will change our food marketing to children."
The Mexican Marketing to Children Pledge
The Philippines Responsible Advertising to Children Initiative
Russian Pledge "On limitation of advertising to children"
South Africa Pledge on Marketing to Children
The Swiss Pledge on Marketing to Children
Thailand Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative
The Turkey Pledge on Marketing to Children
U.S. Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative
Improving Children’s Media Literacy
Mars Chocolate U.K. provided start-up funding and support for Media Smart, an organization that improves children’s understanding of influences such as advertising. The program provides free advertising literacy programs for primary schools, giving children the tools to assess and critique advertising messages in their daily lives.
As well as funding the program, Mars Chocolate U.K. recruited a number of organizations to sit on an external Academic Advisory Board, including trade association partners, media companies and media agencies. The Board provides direction and helps develop materials. Members include representatives from regulatory body OFCOM, the government Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education, and the European Commission.
Media Smart now operates in nine European countries and recently launched in Mexico. It has produced an online digital literacy program and partnered with the U.K. Equalities Minister to launch a Body Image program for primary schools.
Making Green Claims
We want to communicate the environmental credentials of our products, so people can make informed purchasing decisions. But providing simple, clear information that consumers can understand and use to compare products is not easy. As with any type of claim, we must be very careful not to make misleading statements.
We have established clear guidelines and a formal review process for any Mars brand that wants to use sustainability related labeling or make an environmental claim. The guidelines are based on existing U.S. legislation and on labeling laws currently being explored by the E.U. The guidelines and review process ensure that the scope and boundaries of the claims we make are clear, that the language is unambiguous and factually accurate, and that imagery related to the claim can be easily interpreted.
Marketing is becoming more interactive, for example by encouraging consumers to generate their own content on our websites and by using third-party social media such as Facebook and YouTube. We are working hard to ensure we use online and other new media channels responsibly and in ways that respect and maintain consumer trust in our brands. Respecting people’s privacy and safeguarding personal information entrusted to us is key to this.
Mars Chocolate U.K. piloted a new governance process for our use of digital channels to ensure compliance with our Marketing Code. We plan to extend this process to all Mars segments in the U.K., and roll it out globally soon after. We also abide by the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) code of ethics for all digital marketing campaigns.
5 We have based our Marketing Code on the 2006 National Academy of Sciences report, Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity? This report concluded that there is “strong evidence” that television advertising influences the food and beverage preferences and purchase requests of children ages 2-11, and “moderate evidence” that television advertising influences the food and beverage beliefs of children ages 2-11, and “insufficient evidence” that television advertising influences the preferences, purchase requests, or beliefs of teens ages 12-18.