PromoVeritas perceive threats to marketing freedoms

Amy Powell, Compliance Manager at PromoVeritas, considers the implications of the Government’s policy proposals about advertising foods high in fat, sugar, and salt on the FMCG industry. These include an outright ban of online promotions for any HFSS products from April 2022.

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“We already have in place a robust set of rules, put together by the Committee of Advertising Practices (“CAP”) for how brands can and cannot advertise HFSS products in both above and below the line marketing. These include a ban on any direct targeting of children through the use of licenced characters or appeal to their emotions or desires. Pester power cannot be encouraged or displayed and no adverts should be shown in any medium where more than 25% of the audience are likely to be children. We also know that Transport for London have already gone further – implementing a complete ban on the advertisement of HFSS products in any of their media channels.

The government have made HFSS advertising a key focus in their campaign to combat obesity

The proposed measures include a restriction on where in a store, HFSS products can be displayed and advertised. So not at checkouts, shop entrances or at the ends of aisles and ‘their on-line equivalents’.

In addition, retailers will be prohibited from running multibuy deals and ‘buy one get one free’ style promotions for HFSS products.

This is clearly worrying and a threat to our creative freedom. FMCG brands often run amazing prize promotions in order to secure that valuable end of aisle space.

In my opinion, we already have sufficient rules in place to avoid children being exposed to adverts for ‘harmful’ HFSS products and the Government proposals for a blanket, almost total advertising ban, seems to be an exercise in scare tactics and an attempt to grab headlines, rather than a practical solution. It is not as if the issue has been ignored by the industry regulators up until now.

The government consultation on HFSS advertising has mobilised opinion amongst experts and industry leaders

Perhaps what is really required is to provide additional support to the measures already in place. The CAP Code is ‘policed’ by the ASA, who given their size, cannot review every advert out in the public domain. In addition their powers are limited and may not necessarily dissuade brands from repeat offending even if they are caught.  Perhaps providing the ASA with tougher sanctions and resources would be a better approach, rather than adopting a disproportionate, and frankly oppressive, total ban which will deprive the UK of a rather large advertising revenue stream.

The good news is that this legislation is still at consultation stage, and nothing will change for at least a year. Now is our opportunity to consider ways in which we can limit the impact of these proposals, whilst still ensuring that we do the right thing, for our brands, our staff, our shareholders and also for consumers and the nation in general. Blatant breaches of the existing rules are obviously wrong, but then so would an all-encompassing industry wide ban on the ability to market decent products to our audiences”.

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