Industry chokes at total ban on online junk food ads

BKThe advertising and marketing industry has launched a stinging attack on the Government’s plan to introduce a 9pm watershed on junk food advertising on TV and a total online ad ban  through the Health & Care Bill, revealed in today’s Queen’s Speech.

Ministers first mooted proposals to banish ads for food and drink brands high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) in August 2019, and then again in July 2020.

However, this was only to move TV and online ads beyond the 9pm watershed; in November last year it was announced that the ban would extend to all online ads, no matter what time of day.

At the time, advertising and marketing industry trade bodies argued that such a move would be a “huge blow” to the business at a time when it is already “reeling from the impact of Covid-19”.

More than 800 food and drink manufacturers – including Unilever, Mars, Britvic, Kellogg’s and Associated British Foods – joined the fight against the plans, claiming the proposal was “disproportionate” and that targeting tools could easily assuage concerns.

The companies, which between them own more than 3,000 UK brands, insisted they were not been given enough time to submit detailed objections.

In March this year, the ad industry slated a report which claimed to have unearthed fresh evidence that online junk food ads are the work of the Devil, insisting the Government should tackle the societal issues which lead to obesity and not batter brands with another advertising ban.

However, it seems, these protests have fallen on deaf ears in Whitehall.

Advertising Association chief executive Stephen Woodford commented: “We are dismayed at the Government’s decision, announced in today’s Queen’s Speech, that it is going to press ahead with a 9pm watershed and total online ban on HFSS advertising.

“The Government’s own evidence shows that such measures will be ineffective in tackling obesity. The country needs balanced, consistent and well-evidenced policy interventions that will make a positive difference.

“The 9pm watershed and online ban will not reduce obesity levels, but will damage business and innovation and put jobs at risk.”

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