Marketing Brands Responsibly – Doing Our Part | Mars, Incorporated
Respect for Our Consumers

Marketing our Brands with People in Mind


As manufacturers of some of the world’s best-loved chocolate, confectionery, chewing gum and food brands, we recognize our huge responsibility and we’re privileged to play a part in your everyday lives. To respect you and your family, we promise to market only in appropriate ways, especially when it comes to reaching your children on new, emerging digital channels.


Everything begins with trust. That’s why we have a comprehensive global Marketing Code that guides all of our marketing activities. It sets strict guidelines for the way we advertise food, chocolate, confections and gum products across all our markets, so you know just what you’re getting when you enjoy our products and services.

In several countries, a third party conducts annual compliance audits of our Marketing Code. We also are a part of an industry coalition, the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA), which commits member companies to upholding shared marketing standards.

We make sure all of our Marketing organization all around the world is held to the standard of our Marketing Code. As just one example, Mars Chocolate appointed a network of global Responsible Marketing Ambassadors — this group has clear objectives and local plans for their regions, such as making sure our Associates are getting the right training and that all Mars Chocolate websites are fully in line with our Marketing Code.

Any Associate, anywhere, can challenge a marketing plan before launch. Whenever these challenges happen, we pay close attention and eventually use them as case studies 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.


We want every Associate to know the Marketing Code inside and out — that’s why it’s a key part of our Mars University learning program. Through training courses available online and during our annual marketing meetings, we make clear that every Associate has a responsibility to comply with the code. In addition to our own Associates, we require that marketers and agency partners pass the Marketing Code “Drivers License” test before marketing our brands.


Our amazing team of outside help makes sure Mars Chocolate lives up to our Marketing Code. Baroness Jean Coussins, Hugh Burkitt (Chief Executive of The Marketing Society) and Christine Cork (an educational consultant) are all on our side, working with our U.K. Marketing Director and a Corporate Affairs representative, who chair the group. The Marketing Advisory Group meets every quarter to review all of our marketing activities against our Marketing Code and best practices. And it’s not just in the U.K. — a similar team meets regularly in North America to review marketing communications before they are approved for release.


We want kids to be kids. One of the most important aspects of the Mars Marketing Code is our commitment to never directly advertise to children younger than 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 younger than 121.

The way we do it is simple — if more than a quarter of an audience is likely to be under 12, we don’t buy advertising time. And if a website is aimed at children younger than 13 years old, we stay clear. Visitors to most of our web pages must enter their birthdate before downloading branded wallpapers or screensavers or playing or reading on the website. Our advertisements and promotions never depict unaccompanied children 12 years or younger eating snack foods, and we never use them as spokespeople for our brands.

Though we stick with some old favorites, such as the M&M’S® Characters, we’ve decided to never create new characters that appeal especially to children for our chocolate, gum and confections brands. The actions and speech of the M&M’S® Characters are intended for an audience older than 12 years of age, and we continue to emphasize their mature personalities and adult characteristics.

We also believe in keeping snack-filled vending machines away from primary schools and do not sponsor "school" sporting events. If the primary schools request our participation, we ensure all activity is non-branded or limited to educational or public service messaging programs for responsible gum disposal and oral health care only.


In 2016, 95 percent of our media content in our top 18 media markets/regions was compliant with our Mars Marketing Code, and we achieved a 97.3 percent compliance for our media placement across our top 14 markets, excluding Russia. MediaCom and Starcom performed our media placement audit tracking the placement of our marketing communications across 6 different media types and will be repeated every quarter. We worked with an independent third-party auditor, Ebiquity, for our media content audit. This ground-breaking, rigorous initiative performed 24 compliance checks to ensure the content of our marketing communications didn’t appeal or target under 12 year olds, or under 13 year olds for Digital communications. Building on the industry-leading commitments in our Mars Marketing Code, the audit was the first of its kind for Mars and will be repeated every quarter. We’re proud of our initial results – but we won’t get complacent! We’re encouraged and excited to ramp up our responsible marketing efforts, particularly in the weaker-performing markets and media types, aiming to create a culture of full transparency and accountability.

We will not direct marketing communications primarily to children under 12 in terms of advertising and media content. Compliance is measured against 24 commitments as defined by our Mars Marketing Code.

ONGOING TARGET: Media compliance >95 percent

We will not direct marketing communications primarily to children under 12 in terms of advertising and media placement. This is defined when more than 25% of the audience is under 12 years old. The compliance target is >97%; due to the forward-looking nature of the media buying process, it is impossible to achieve a compliance rate of 100%.

ONGOING TARGET: Media placement compliance >97 percent
PROGRESS: 97.3 percent compliance in top 14 markets

The Road Ahead: Continuous Improvement In Marketing

“We love the fact that consumers enjoy our diverse brands. But we have a big responsibility to market them ethically, to be honest with consumers, and to avoid marketing to children. We are working hard to improve our compliance rates and, collaborating with all parts of our media buying process, to ensure we achieve our target in the future.” — Jacqui Stephenson, Global Responsible Marketing Officer

We’re working hard to continually develop by:

  • Improving the way we buy advertisement slots
  • Establishing a Board to oversee the Mars Marketing Code
  • Working more closely with TV companies to pull ads when schedules changes
  • Exploring more accurate ways of measuring and reporting


As a member of the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA) industry coalition, we promise to uphold our shared marketing standards. The IFBA keeps an eye on its members’ performance, and a third party regularly audits participating companies around the world.

Beyond our global Marketing Code, we commit to a number of country-specific marketing pledges. Here are some examples of 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


We believe our kids should be Media Smart. That’s why Mars Chocolate U.K. gave start-up funding and support to Media Smart, an organization that helps kids understand the powerful influences of advertising and other media. This unique program provides free advertising literacy programs to primary schools, which helps kids assess and critique all sorts of messages in their daily lives.

Beyond funding the program, Mars Chocolate U.K. brought in partner organizations to sit on an external Academic Advisory Board. These trade associations, media companies and media agencies give direction and help develop the educational materials. Members include representatives from the U.K. Office of Communications, the government Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education, and the European Commission.

Nine European countries and Mexico are proud to host Media Smart programs. Together with its partners, the program has produced an online digital literacy program and partnered with the U.K. Equalities Minister to launch a Body Image program for primary schools.


We want to tell you how green we are. Communicating the environmental credentials of our products and services lets all of our consumers make informed purchasing decisions. But providing simple, clear information that consumers can understand and use to compare products and services is not easy. As with any type of claim, we must be very careful not to make misleading statements.

We have a clear and straightforward approval process for any Mars brand that wants to use sustainability-related labeling or talk about our “greenness.” Those guidelines are based on laws in the U.S. and the E.U. Together, they help us make sure that the scope and boundaries of the claims we make are clear, that the language is unambiguous and accurate, and that imagery related to the claim can be easily interpreted.


Today, marketing is all about connection. For example, people can create their own content on our websites or use social media, such as Facebook and YouTube, to connect with others and express their feelings. 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 your privacy and protecting your personal information is one of the most important things we do.

Mars Chocolate U.K. piloted a new process for our use of digital channels to ensure we’re living up to our Marketing Code. We plan to bring this process to all Mars businesses in the U.K. and roll it out globally soon after. We also are sure to follow the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) code of ethics for all digital marketing campaigns.

1 We have based our Marketing Code on a number of studies, including 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. Other studies consulted include "Is television advertising good for children? Areas of concern and policy implications" from the International Journal of Advertising; "Review of the research on the effects of food promotion to children" by the U.K. Food Standards Agency; "Does advertising literacy mediate the effects of advertising on children? A critical examination of two linked research literatures in relation to obesity and food choice" from the Journal of Communication; and "The development of a child into a consumer" from the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

With such a large reach and impact on consumers, we believe it is our duty to market in appropriate, and responsible ways.