Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Do We Need Another Code to Underpin Food and Drink Marketing?

Magazine article Marketing

Opinion: The Marketing Society Forum - Do We Need Another Code to Underpin Food and Drink Marketing?

Article excerpt

The Department of Health has issued a tender seeking 'external partners' to help develop a set of voluntary guidelines on how food and drink products should be marketed to children.


For good-practice codes to work they have to be clear, achievable and meet a business need.

There may be a place for guidelines covering the whole of the marketing process from product innovation, through packaging, labelling, in-store policies and beyond.

Government has a social agenda to encourage healthy diets and healthy lifestyles. Advertisers support the objective but are less convinced that marketing is the root cause of the problem or that defining 'less healthy foods' is a meaningful concept in isolation from lifestyle.

Even then there are at least two major problems. First, the advertising industry's self-regulation system is well-established and it works. It would confuse matters to overwrite the codes.

This brings me to the second issue - the ad regulations and food-labelling rules are a reflection of EU laws. There is little scope for EU countries to go it alone. To maintain the advantages of a European single market, the government should be careful not to undermine UK competitiveness.


As marketers, it's all too easy to view codes as restrictive and frustrating, and even having a negative impact on brands. It's tempting to see this move as the latest in a long line of confusing codes and guidelines, but we should err on the side of caution where marketing and children are concerned.

Childhood obesity is a real and present problem that isn't going away After all, the consumer must come first.

The DoH has pledged a thorough and comprehensive review, and I hope it will deliver. Traditional advertising is subject to a range of regulations but, like us, children now have a wider and more disruptive set of touchpoints that should be taken into account.

We do need to take a responsible approach to food marketing. Brands and agencies should focus on the single-minded ethical intent behind the code and respond with the transparency it calls for.

Provided lessons have been learned from recent guideline initiatives, and the new code delivers clarity, rather than confusion, the exercise will be worthwhile. …

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