AUCKLAND, Sept 27 - Frucor's campaign included emojis depicting All Black rugby players and encouraged children to collect limited edition Pepsi Max drinks cans, Healthy Auckland Together spokesman Dr Michael Hale says.
The company then marketed this through Facebook, online gaming and advertisements on bus shelters near schools, he said.
He said this was in contravention of the revamped Advertising Standards Authority's children's code, which was reviewed last year to reduce harm from the promotion of unhealthy food and drinks.
The ASA subsequently did not uphold a complaint against Frucor and instead settled with the company because it voluntarily took down its advertisements from bus shelters.
"Frucor avoided a slap on the hand from the ASA by taking down its ads just as the campaign was winding up, after six weeks of exposure," Hale said.
While pleased the ASA recognised that Pepsi Max's marketing inappropriately appealed to kids with its cartoon emojis of sports stars, Hale said the lack of punishment meant the revamped children's code had failed in its "first test".
He said fizzy and artificially sweetened drinks should only be drunk occasionally because they helped give kids a taste for sweet foods that lessened the appeal of fruit and vegetables.
"These drinks contain caffeine and also displace everyday drinks like milk and water," he said.