Advertising Association HFSS Media Planning and Buying

Ad Association and IPA welcome delay to ‘wrongful’ junk food ad ban


By Hannah Bowler, Senior Reporter

December 9, 2022 | 4 min read

Industry trade bodies say the delay is helpful but call for the policy to be scrapped altogether.

HFSS ad ban delayed again

HFSS ad ban delayed again / Pexels

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has delayed the banning of ads for foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) before 9pm watershed, pushing it back until 2025.

The Advertising Association (AA) and the Institute of Advertising Practitioners (IPA) welcome the extra time this gives the ad industry but continue to object to the policy.

Stephen Woodford, chief executive of the Advertising Association, says: “While it is helpful, for planning purposes, to have a clear timeframe for the new advertising restrictions to be implemented, we continue to believe that this is the wrong policy and will do nothing to tackle obesity.”

The trade body has consistently dismissed the claim that an ad ban would have any impact on tackling obesity. Woodford instead calls for “well-funded, multi-faceted programs focused on making changes in local communities” rather than a “population-wide and non-targeted approaches such as advertising bans”.

It’s the latest delay to the roll-out of the controversial policy. The legislation was first tabled in 2021, with the ban initially planned to come into effect in January 2023. The policy was then pushed back by 12 months by former prime minister Boris Johnson as a reaction to the cost of living crisis.

Then in September under Liz Truss’s government, it was rumored the legislation would be scrapped altogether to overhaul her predecessor’s obesity regulations.

Richard Lindsay, the director of legal and public affairs at the IPA, says while the new date will give businesses ”sufficient” time to get to grips with the new rules, it remains the IPA’s view that ”advertising restrictions will do nothing to tackle childhood obesity and that the focus should be on addressing its root causes”.

The ISBA’s director-general Phil Smith has also weighed in, claiming the 2024 deadline was an ”impossible task” to comply with. ”The political uncertainty over the past year has meant that there is no designated regulator for these measures, no guidance and no clarity on either the products in scope or the type of ads that would be acceptable to run. Bringing them into force either in 2023 or 2024 would have been unworkable.”

The legislation puts the advertising industry at loggerheads with healthcare professionals who vehemently believe the ad ban will help with the UK’s obesity crisis. Katharine Jenner, who is director of the Obesity Health Alliance, says: “Delaying junk food advertising restrictions is a shocking move by the government, with no valid justification to do so other than giving a flimsy excuse that businesses need more time to prepare and reformulate.”

Meanwhile, Chris Askew, the chief executive of Diabetes UK, calls Sunak’s delay “disgraceful,” saying: “This measure is part of a vital toolkit to rebalance health inequalities and these delays directly undermine the government’s own commitments to halving childhood obesity by 2030 and improving the nation’s health.”

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