Brit Agencies Welcome Government’s Junk Food Proposals

18 November 2004

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, representing Britain's advertising and marketing agencies, on Tuesday greeted the government's proposals (on the promotion of food and alcohol to young people and children) rather as the latter might pick at a plateful of burgers and cabbage.

In like style, the IPA munched greedily at those portions of the so-called White Paper that appealed to its tastebuds and pushed the rest to the side of its plate.

It finds the government's proposal to fund a nationwide positive health campaign particularly yummy. But a ban on TV advertising of junk foods and candid product labelling has about as much appeal as Brussels sprouts.

The IPA fears that the proposed 'traffic lights' labelling system - which rates food and drink for its salt, fat and sugar content - could 'demonise' certain products.

But second helpings are demanded for government campaigns seeking to promote healthy eating, exercise and sporting activity.

As to a ban on junk food TV ads targeting children, IPA legal director Marina Palomba is predictably and implacably opposed: "While the IPA embraces the need to protect vulnerable groups there is little or no evidence that the proposed advertising restrictions would have the desired effect on obesity levels.

"Indeed bans are not only ineffective but can be counter productive damaging consumer choice, information and healthy competition."

  • And equally predictably, came howls from the opposing camps. The Consumers' Association declared it "disappointing" that plans for an ad ban were conspicuous by their absence.

    "We welcome these proposals," said a spokeswoman, "but it is disappointing that this area seems to have been subjected to a game of 'pass the parcel'. There's clearly a need for restrictions on food advertising."

    Another lobbyist, Alcohol Concern, issued a strong protest against a decision by the Department of Health to ask the Portman Group - a body funded by the UK brewing and distilling industry - to create an anti-binge drinking marketing campaign

    Alcohol Concern's Richard Phillips found this difficult to swallow. "Overall we are very pleased, but it is an extraordinary proposal to put responsibility for public health into the hands of a drink industry-funded lobby group."

    Opined a food industry executive who declined to be named: "[The proposals are] a calculated, clever political statement. They have jumped down hard on tobacco, on food they are less sure."

    Nor was there any guarantee that the food industry would help to fund the government's planned healthy lifestyle campaign. "The industry will only contribute to it if they don't feel that they have been backed into a corner.

    "Most food manufacturers don't care that much about advertising to kids," insists the anonymous pundit. "The average age of the population is 35. Children's level of spot purchases has never been lower - many corner shops have shut, kids don't walk to school anymore. Mums buy everything. Mums are massively more important."

    But the mystery man mysteriously overlooked two key words. 'Pester' and 'power'.

    Data sourced from Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and; additional content by WARC staff