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Marketers react: UK delays HFSS TV ad ban by 1 year


By Hannah Bowler, Senior Reporter

May 16, 2022 | 4 min read

The government has delayed its ban on advertising foods high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) online and on TV before 9pm to give the ad industry more time to adapt. Isba and the AA have welcomed the delay after claiming the government’s timeline was “heightening uncertainty and threatening investment.”

UK government delays HFSS ad ban

The UK government has delayed the HFSS ad ban / Pexels

The health and care bill will now come into law in January 2024 while it awaits royal approval (royal assent). The government said the delay was also a recognition that the industry needs more time to prepare. Media, data and digital minister Julia Lopez said: “We have listened to the concerns that have been raised and will not be bringing in restrictions on junk food advertising until confident that the time is right.”

Both Isba and the AA have vehemently disagreed with the implementation of the bill and had been calling for an extension. ISBA’s director general Phil Smith said the government’s “timetable left business no time to adapt to the final shape of the rules.”

Sue Eustace, director of public affairs at the AA, said that the industry needed the “opportunity to look again at this legislation and find the best way to a solution.”

Once the bill comes into law UK broadcasters will no longer be able to show HFSS adverts before 9pm, and HFSS advertisers will be banned from placing paid-for adverts online. The delay has allowed the government to run a consultation with industry leaders, which will take place in the coming weeks.

In its delay statement, the government acknowledged “higher-than-expected global energy and goods prices, leading to increased costs across supply chains, which are affecting both businesses and consumers.”

Both trade bodies said the pause was needed while the industry works out how to respond to the cost-of-living crisis. “With the UK in the grip of a cost-of-living crisis and with the specter of rising inflation, we need a total focus on supporting our food manufacturing and broadcast industries to grow and invest,” Smith said. “At a time of low growth, it makes little to no sense to pile costs on advertising – an industry that is a key driver of Britain’s economic success,” he added.

The HFSS TV watershed ban is part of the government’s wider commitment to reduce obesity in the UK. Eustace said the ad industry is committed to tackling obesity but “in a way that recognizes the cost-of-living crisis and pressures that everybody is facing currently.”

Smith added: “Britain’s obesity crisis is a serious one that needs serious solutions – on physical activity, food education and tackling poverty. As we have done in the past, advertisers stand ready to work with the government to play our part in tackling the actual root causes of the problem.”

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