“Anything can happen at backgammon.” Political diarist Alan Clarke’s shrug to events beyond all of our control is an apt way to describe any articles on ‘future-wanging’ for 2021. There are simply too many variables outside our control for 2021 for any sensible forecasts.
However, there is an event happening in 2022 which does have far reaching implications for the food sector. The total UK ban on HFSS food advertising and the post-2100 watershed for TV advertising are both coming – irrespective of any defences our industry collectively deploys. We can all lament the government ham-fistedly knocking the advertising industry, or we can act. There are some smart plays that food brands can make.
We have been here before. Whilst history won’t exactly repeat itself, there are some lessons we can learn from the first prohibition in 2008 which outlawed HFSS brands advertising in specific children’s channels and programmes. Cereals couldn’t take advantage of kids’ channels that were a fraction of the cost of mainstream channels. Tony the Tiger and Honey Monster were the main casualties. Yet Kelloggs placed all their faith in Coco the Monkey by doubling and then trebling their advertising spend in the years following the change.
Not only did they diversify their channel mix, they also paid the whopping premium on running in late peak TV channels. At the same time, they reconfigured Coco Pops by removing the sugar. Within four years, they had returned to children’s channels as the brand became HFSS compliant.
It is axiomatic that food packaged goods television advertising rarely delivers a short-term ROI from advertising. However, the long-term effects measured over three years are incredibly powerful. Profit ROI of £3.24 per £1 spent on advertising over three years as cited by the excellent Profitability study from Ebiquity/Gain Theory (March 2018) is attractive for any food advertiser. Brave food brands should look to bring their media spends forward to take advantage of this.
For Facebook and Google this will be a relatively small blip to their annual revenues. For TV sales houses an estimated £240m of TV spend is at risk. They should recover as a continued economic recovery into 2022-23 should bolster demand and the changes in viewing demands will continue to strangle supply to maintain yields.
Inevitably HFSS food brand money will switch to Out of Home and audio. OOH not only suffers from more localised regulation but also from some very damning econometric studies on effectiveness. This leaves audio as a potential surprise winner. Its relatively low CPTs make it attractive for good effectiveness outcomes. A smart play for food advertisers who are at risk from this regulation would be to bring forward all their TV spends for the next three years to create a sonic logo; and then use radio to amplify this over the rest of the decade.
Advertising is rather similar to backgammon – a mixture of strategy and serendipity. More regulation is inevitable in our industry. HFSS brands can be smart and plan for this with forward thinking.
Richard Temple is Chief Executive Officer at John Ayling & Associates.
About JAA: John Ayling & Associates is the original media independent planning and buying company for businesses that understand that first class media thinking delivers business growth.