The Junk food Ad ban: does it target obesity or the advertising industry?

The media has been saturated with the revelation this week that pre-watershed junk food advertising could be culled in the hope of reducing childhood obesity. The advertising industry has been calling for the government to reconsider the ban, suggesting it could damage business recovery in the wake of the coronavirus.

According to sources, prime minister Boris Johnson is preparing to unveil plans to vastly change how unhealthy food is sold in Britain. This is could include a in-store promotion, pre 9pm watershed on television ads and even the deals customers receive in stores.

Final decisions have not yet been taken how far reaching the implementations may be and more prominent labelling, likened to the ones already seen on tobacco products, are still being debated.

With this in mind, the advertising and food and drink industry should prepare itself for a huge overhaul of how foods are promoted.

A detailed announcement is expected imminently but the advertising industry is imploring the government to reconsider their plans.

The Advertising Association’s CEO Stephen Woodford says the ban would be in “direct conflict” with its own evidence that restrictions would have a minimal impact on obesity levels will having a significant economic impact. This is all the more concerning, he says, in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

High angle view of man photographing fresh fast-food on table from mobile phone at cafe
Smiling delivery man using smartphone for client signature after delivering parcel. Young courier man in helmet and backpack using cellphone. Delivery food service with copy space.

He adds: “These measures, if introduced, would have significant economic impact at a time when the economy is already under strain due to Covid-19, with thousands of jobs under threat across the UK’s media, advertising, food and retail sectors. The government must reconsider any proposals which could damage the recovery, jobs, and people’s livelihoods, just at the very moment everyone is working so hard to recover.”

ISBA director general Phil Smith is also calling on the government to reconsider, saying it is “deeply concerned” by the reports.

“Brands have partnered effectively with government over the lockdown period to support, develop and amplify public health campaigns as well as safeguard and support employees. Just as business begins to chart a course back from the severe impacts of Covid-19, such an ill-thought out policy cuts across Treasury efforts to support the sector and risks jobs and livelihoods,” he says.

It has been noted that Johnson has previously criticised ‘sin taxes’ but after a brush with coronavirus himself, is said to have changed his stance on it after believing his own weight was the cause for the severity of his illness.

Background image of photo camera with photo of food on table against computer with editing software, copy space

The UK already has some of the most strict measures on junk food advertising when compared to other countries. In market research of the effects of restricting advertising of this nature, it was stated that a difference of a mere 9 calories was taken away per day in both boys and girls.

Many critics suggest a ban on junk food advertising would do little to impact the underlying causes of obesity but could have catastrophic results on advertising and broadcasting businesses. In 2018, NHS England found that 64% of adults and 30% of children were still overweight or obese despite the varying initiatives created by the government; which begs the question, does addressing the thought prevent the problem, or is it the problem itself that needs to be addressed and prevented?

Woman holding digital tablet with launched online shopping market while standing on the kitchen with lots of fresh food on the table

Other Recent Posts