Advertisers urge Boris Johnson to rethink restrictions on 'junk food' ads

Junk food: restrictions could be implemented before 2024
Junk food: restrictions could be implemented before 2024

Reported restrictions include a pre-9pm watershed ban on TV ads.

The ad industry is urging prime minister Boris Johnson to reconsider reported plans to hedge "unhealthy" food advertising, citing that restrictions could damage the industry’s recovery in the aftermath of Covid-19.

According to the Financial Times, Johnson is rushing to implement curbs on how unhealthy foods are sold in Britain, with proposals including a ban on online advertising of "unhealthy" foods as well as on pre-9pm watershed TV ads, and cutdowns on in-store promotions, to be announced as early as next week. 

Other suggested actions include calorie labels on both menus and alcoholic drinks.

However, broadcasters including ITV and Channel 4 maintain that a ban would affect about £200m of adspend across their sector, which has already suffered blows as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Phil Smith, chief executive of ISBA, said: "Brands have partnered effectively with government over the lockdown period to support, develop and amplify public health campaigns.

"Just as business begins to chart a course back from the severe impacts of Covid-19, such an ill-thought-out policy cuts across Treasury efforts to support the sector, and risks jobs and livelihoods." 

The government is expected to propose implementing its reforms ahead of the next election in 2024.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, said the ban would be "in direct conflict" with the government’s own evidence "that such restrictions would have minimal impact on obesity levels". The FT, meanwhile, cites government figures admitting the restrictions would "hit the commercial broadcasters hard".

It is unclear whether the givernment's plans will apply to all foods high in fat, salt or sugar – a broad category that includes some products not typically perceived as unhealthy, such as Cheddar cheese and olive oil.

Last month (15 June) MPs called for a total ban on TV and online gambling ads.

Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.com , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber

GET YOUR CAMPAIGN DAILY FIX

The latest work, news, advice, comment and analysis, sent to you every day

register free