UK Watchdog Deems Total Junk Food Ad Ban 'Ineffective'

23 July 2004

After interviewing over 2,000 children, their parents and teachers, plus nutritionists, media regulator Ofcom has come to the conclusion that a total ban on children's TV ads for junk foods would be ineffective.

Ofcom's research shows that only 30% of children's TV viewing is during the designated 'children's airtime', so a junk food ad ban at these times would have little impact.

Contrary to the opinion of many doctors, parents and health pressure groups, Ofcom says advertising does not significantly influence children's eating habits. Rather, peer pressure and a child's favourite foods are major deciding factors.

The research also found that the preferred healthy food choice by parents often loses out to convenience foods. Moreover, parents do not favour a total advertising ban, but are concerned with ads targeted to very young children.

Ofcom's ceo, Stephen Carter, agrees on a need to tighten some rules relating to advertising but opines that "a total ban would be neither proportionate to nor, in isolation, effective."

Prior to updating the Advertising Code, Ofcom awaits publication of the nutritional breakdown of foods by the Food Standards Agency and a white paper on public health from the British government.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff