General Mills should instruct bloggers receiving $4 gift cards to disclose that payment in any reviews of Yoplait yogurt, the Better Business Bureau's self-regulatory National Advertising Division
said in an opinion published on Wednesday.
The NAD added that General Mills should stop re-posting reviews that don't have those disclosures, or at least revise the re-posts in a way that
“clearly and conspicuously” informs readers about the gift cards. “A $4 coupon was not such a small incentive as to render the connection immaterial in light of the level of consumer
engagement present here,” the NAD says in its written opinion.
General Mills said in its response to the NAD that it will consider the organization's recommendations, but doesn't
believe that it's required to tell bloggers to make disclosures, according to the NAD's opinion.
The decision came in response to a challenge by Chobani to General Mills' ads for Yoplait
yogurt. General Mills had argued that the gift card, which was given to around 5,000 bloggers, wasn't valuable enough to influence a reviewer's opinion. But the NAD said the gift card could affect the
endorsement's credibility. “Consumers receiving the ... $4 gift card may be more likely to post their taste preference if they favored Yoplait over Chobani,” the organization said.
In addition to questioning Yoplait's blogger initiative, Chobani also alleged that the taste-test campaign was misleading. General Mills boasted in its ads that nearly two out of three
Americans prefer the taste of Yoplait Greek Blueberry to Chobani Blueberry with fruit on the bottom.
Chobani took issue with the comparison, arguing that any taste test should have compared
its “blended” Greek yogurt, not the fruit-on-the-bottom variety. The NAD sided with Yoplait on that point, stating that “advertisers can compare dissimilar products as long as the
basis of the comparison is clearly disclosed.”
The self-regulatory group also didn't see a problem with Yoplait's television ads, which discussed the results of the taste test.
“The voiceover during the commercial specifies several times that the taste test compared Yoplait Greek Blueberry to Chobani Blueberry fruit on the bottom,” the NAD said.
Yoplait's social media ads were more concerning to the NAD. A Tumblr page for the “tasteoff” campaign boasts that nearly two out of three consumers prefer the taste of Yoplait to Chobani,
and then asks consumers to compare the two brands. The page also incorporates tweets that include the hashtag #tasteoff.
But consumers who tweeted their preferences compared a variety of
yogurt flavors, not just blueberry. As a result, the NAD said the tweets potentially conveyed “a broader message that the taste test results apply to all flavors in each product line,” as
opposed to the blueberry flavors.
The organization recommended that General Mills “more clearly separate its claims about Yoplait’s taste test results on Yoplait Greek blueberry
and Chobani blueberry fruit on the bottom from the comments it has solicited on taste preferences, (e.g. by ensuring that the two do not appear in close proximity), including on its Tumblr page, on
Twitter, on Youtube and other social media sites.”