UK Obesity Campaign Debates Best Use of Funds

12 February 2008

LONDON: The UK government's recently announced plans for a £75 million ($146.8m; €100m) anti-obesity marketing campaign have sparked a debate on the efficacy, or otherwise, of a universal logo to publicize the effort.

The Central Office of Information, which will co-ordinate the campaign, has thus far been vague on details and has yet to to appoint agencies. However, it expects to produce an outline of the health drive by this summer.

The use of a logo is predicted to cause divisions between government, the food industry and health lobbyists. For example: where the logo will appear and who will be allowed to use it? And whether 'junk' food manufacturers be allowed to participate?

No one disputes that obesity among British children and adults is growing and must be tackled.

But the arguments over the best use of resources to address the issue are likely to rage on.

The coordinator of lobby group Children's Food Campaign, Richard Watts, is concerned that the money the government plans to spend is a drop in the ocean compared with the food industry's adipose ad budgets.

He argues: "It's illogical to spend taxpayer money on anti-junk-food advertising while allowing significantly higher spending on contradicting that message."

However, Advertising Association spokesman Jonathan Collett counters: "It's using the positive power of advertising, which seems to be a bit of a sea change in how the government sees advertising."

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff