London Mayor Sadiq Khan is proposing a ban on advertising for all products that are high in fat, salt and sugar from London’s transport network.
Khan argues that the obesity crisis in the UK warrants such drastic measures. Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, for example, will still be able to run ads on London Transport, but only for “healthier” products like Diet Coke and McDonald’s salads.
Advertising Association CEO Stephen Woodford argued hard in parliament this week to avoid tougher restrictions on the advertising of HFSS products, but Khan’s ban may be more in tune with the nation than the ad industry would like to think.
MPs called earlier this year for a ban on all HFSS TV ads before the 9pm watershed, and, with obesity still on the rise, there is a sense that the Advertising Association is fighting a losing battle.
If the big brands can still advertise, albeit with a restricted portfolio of products, revenues need not be devastated. And the general public’s trust in advertising might improve if the industry is seen to be supporting the country’s efforts to combat obesity.
Khan showed his willingness to take the lead in responsible advertising a couple of years ago, when he banned ads that promote unrealistic expectations about body image. This was in response to Protein World’s famous “Beach Body Ready” poster.