Friday, 11 May 2018 09:03

London Is Not Lovin' It – Junk Food Advertising Ban Proposed

Advertising has taken a lot of heat over the years for the role it plays in the consumer journey and the increase in bad purchasing habits that have been formed. With the rise in obesity across the world, advertisers for junk food and restaurant products have been under the most pressure to do their jobs well without adding to the negative impact excess amounts of unhealthy food has on the population.

The History Of Food Advertising

Since the 1920s, fast food has soared into popularity with its low prices and quick service. As television became a staple in households, advertisers capitalized on the shows that played regularly – Monday Night Football was a great place to put beer advertisements, Saturday morning cartoons were a great place to advertise toys and sugary cereals. It is no different than the programmatic and retargeting digital campaigns we run today – advertisers will always try to get their products in front of consumers who want to buy those products.

London Takes The Next Steps

This became problematic, especially with advertising that is targeted towards children. So much so that the Federal Trade Commission stepped in to regulate it. However, with childhood obesity rates still alarmingly high, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is proposing a ban on junk food advertising from the entire Transport for London network.

In addition to this, Khan proposed a ban on new fast food restaurants opening within 400 meters of schools.

The Ad Industry Responds

Khan explains that “childhood obesity in London is a ticking time bomb,” with more than 40 percent of ten and eleven-year-olds falling into the obese category. We can't disagree that something needs to be done, but is an advertising ban the answer?

This is coming at a time when high-fat, salt, and sugar products are taking a lot of criticism as attempts to watershed ads for this product categories come under consideration. The Advertising Association argues that there is little evidence that the move to ban advertising for unhealthy food options would have minimal impact on obesity levels.

The Advertising Association suggests, alternatively, that they actually increase advertising for healthy initiatives, such as The Daily Mile, to increase awareness for tactics that have had proven success in decreasing obesity. Stephen Woodford, the chief executive of the Advertising Association, says, “our industry is always ready to play our role in supporting evidence-based and proportionate action around responsible advertising.”

Woodford explains that there are wider societal issues driving childhood obesity than food advertising, as can be seen by the vast differences in obesity level across the UK.

Amsterdam implemented their own multi-faceted approach at the start of the year, including an advertising ban, the results of which will likely be studied later this year.

The main concern with the advertising ban is the impact it will have on the overall economy. With unproven success for its proposed intentions, the ban would cause significant damage to the quality of media and content, as well as jobs.


If you're interested in developing an effective and responsible advertising campaign, contact FiG Advertising + Marketing today to schedule a consultation.