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Marketing Online and on TV with the new UK Junk Food Advertising Ban


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If you weren't aware already, the UK government is set to announce a ban on junk food advertising online and before 9pm on TV from 2023, as part of Boris Johnson's pledge to tackle the UK’s growing obesity crisis.


The new measures, which will be some of the toughest marketing restrictions in the world, will heavily impact brands relying upon food and drink advertising online and on TV.


Check out our guide to navigating the restrictions:


What will the new legislation involve?

  1. A 9pm pre-watershed ban on TV advertising of any food or drink products deemed to be high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS)

  2. A total ban of all paid-for forms of digital marketing, from ads on Facebook to paid-search results on Google, text message promotions, and paid activity on sites such as Instagram and Twitter for any HFSS food or drink.


Now this is understandably going to have a huge impact on not only food and drink brands, but also marketing teams and online platforms. Luckily the government did back down from a more draconian total ban to create the current legislation proposal, and they have included some exemptions.


So how can you work within the new rules?


Brand-only advertising

This is still allowed for online paid-for digital campaigns and on TV, so you can still talk about who your company is and other products.

Example: McDonalds could still run paid-for online ads and TV adverts before 9pm as long as it features no HFSS products. They could run an advert talking about their service, their brand or carrot sticks (instead of chips)


Own website and social media accounts

Brands can still promote their HFSS products on their websites and social media accounts as long as they are not part of any paid-for promotions. Therefore, make sure your SEO is up to scratch and websites and socials are optimised for great organic traffic and engagement.


Some products are exempt

The definition of HFSS products are not absolute, otherwise items such as avocados, marmite, jam and honey would have been blocked. There will be a definitive list published of exempt products (such as zero-sugar drinks, and McDonald's nuggets) which are not nutritionally deemed as a HFSS product and will not be included in the ban. Make sure to check once it is published as you may still be able to promote your products, and we will update this blog with further information!


Small and medium sized companies

Companies with less than 250 employees will continue to be allowed to advertise junk food products in paid-for online advertising or on TV. This is because it would be unfair to hit the smaller brands - such as a local cake maker - from being able to compete in an already crowded market. In addition, the business-to-business market – companies that do not target consumers but are part of the food industry supply chain – will still be allowed to advertise HFSS items.


Other Media

Junk food advertising will still be allowed through audio media, such as podcasts and radio, and there will be no new restrictions for the out-of-home sector, which includes billboards, poster sites, on buses, and in locations such as railway stations and airports.


In conclusion...


Whilst all the above may seem like an attack on the food and drink industry which has already seen hospitality companies hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, the harsh reality is that there is an obesity crisis in the UK which has definitely worsened in lockdown.


There are some clear ways in which you can still continue to market your business under the new rules, but maybe this is a great opportunity for your business to show you care for your consumers wellbeing. If you can tweak recipes and the nutritional content of your products so they no longer fall under the HFSS product category, then the new rules will not affect them AND your brand could be doing their bit to help our world become a healthier place.


Although we don't want to become a nanny state, clear product options and choices being displayed through digital platforms such as your websites and socials can help encourage - rather than force - people to make more mindful healthy choices in their diet and lifestyle.


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