Expert Comment: Will Banning Junk Food ads Really Work?

By Professor Ben Lowe

As the Committee of Advertising Practice announces new rules that will ban the advertising of food or drink high in fat, salt or sugar across all non-broadcast media targeted at under-16s from July next year, our Marketing expert Professor Ben Lowe gives his opinion on the laws shaking up the food industry:

“Like many other countries, the UK has an obesity problem and this is particularly prevalent among children. The pandemic has not helped as lifestyles have become more sedentary. Childhood obesity rates continue to climb and the UK now has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe. This is for many reasons but the media environment and children’s media literacy has been directly linked to childhood obesity rates.

“This should be no great surprise as that’s what advertisers are paid to do and have a multi-million pound war chest to wage war on our children’s waistlines by providing them with “what they want”.

“Nonetheless, this scientific linkage between advertising and childhood obesity serves as important evidence to show that restricting advertising for this group ought to help our kids fight back. As a result experts have been calling for some kind of intervention for some time – anything that can be done to reduce this and change habits is, therefore, a welcome initiative.

“But will this go far enough? So far the evidence is unclear but this is really a very important question – we will only really know once we have allowed it to happen and can measure its effect.

“One view might be “what have we got to lose?”. Reducing access to TV adverts should have a measurable effect and reduce the ability of brands to remind and persuade kids to buy products that might be unhealthy. However, others may feel that this is only a first step in combating an increasingly complex and challenging media environment for kids who now frequent social media and other streaming services, more akin to the “wild west”.

‘Therefore, the jury is still out but this seems to be a welcome but small step in the right direction.’

 Ben Lowe is Professor of Marketing at Kent Business School

Professor Lowe has published around forty refereed journal articles and is currently on the editorial board of several journals and is an Associate Editor at the European Journal of Marketing.
He has co-authored a book on Marketing Research, currently in its 5th edition and has also co-edited special issues on “Consumers and Technology in a Changing World” (European Journal of Marketing) “Changing Food Consumption Behaviours” (Psychology & Marketing) and “Online financial Services in a Changing World” (Service Industries Journal).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.