Exterion Media has called on brands to turn Transport for London’s recent advertising ban on food high in fat, sugar or salt into "a positive" by transforming stations and escalators into a "fitness zone" that will encourage commuters to take more exercise.
Nigel Clarkson, chief revenue officer at Exterion, which has the contract to manage all of the advertising on the London Underground and Overground, said London is suffering from an obesity "crisis" and the ad industry bears part of the responsibility because of the effectiveness of HFSS food advertising.
Exterion is seeking brands to support its fitness initiative, called "Get London moving", which could involve turning escalators and staircases into exercise areas with motivational branding and encouraging commuters to get off the Tube "one stop early" and walk the rest of their journey.
Other ideas include creating a map of the Underground that would show how many calories would be used up by walking between adjacent stations, redesigning station logos with fitness puns such as "Kings Crossfit" and "Marble March", and staging TfL fun runs and walks across London boroughs.
Exterion’s initiative won Goodstuff Communications’ media showcase – an annual event, run by the independent media agency, where media owners pitch to creative agencies and advertisers.
The showcase, now in its fourth year, took place at the Curzon Soho last night. Clarkson dressed in lycra and walked continuously around the inside of the cinema while delivering his pitch to the audience to underline the need to take exercise.
Ad industry should be part of the solution
Clarkson said critics of TfL’s HFSS ad ban, which London mayor Sadiq Khan introduced on 25 February, should recognise that there is a logic to the crackdown when six in 10 Londoners are medically overweight.
"Let’s think about this – as an advertising community, we work in advertising because we know it works, so in small part we’ve actually played a role in creating this challenge and this problem," he told the audience.
"By pushing unhealthy food, unhealthy snacks and the lifestyle those bring, we have in some part created part of the challenge.
"As an industry, we are all really happy to work alongside charities that do great things for health and yet this ban seems to have created a real sense of anger amongst the advertising community.
"What we’d like to do is spin that around and bring it back to a positive. If we’re part of the problem, then we should own part of the challenge to create a solution."
It is understood that TfL supports Exterion’s "Get London moving" idea.
Exterion beat seven other companies, including its new owner Global, which is organising a new literary prize for female comedy writers in partnership with its radio stations, to win Goodstuff's showcase.
Channel 4 is planning a "zero gravity" live ad break to be shown during the 50th anniversary of the moon landing later this year and ITV is running a competition to find a young ad creative to redesign the broadcaster’s logo for its on-screen idents for a week in August – as part of a 52-week long series of different designs airing on ITV all year.
Snap plans to stage the first mobile music festival and Spotify is launching a podcast series that will give a voice to people from diverse and underprivileged backgrounds.
Stylist is running a campaign to highlight ways to tackle sleeplessness among women and the Telegraph is offering to match an advertiser’s £150,000 adspend and return the money if it doesn’t lead to an increase in propensity to purchase.
Clarkson admitted TfL’s HFSS ban has meant a revenue hit of about £20m to its annual ad take.