Change4Life: 'Foodsmart' campaign gives tough message in a practical way
Change4Life: 'Foodsmart' campaign gives tough message in a practical way
A view from Russ Lidstone, chief executive, Havas Worldwide London

Change4Life makes a 'welcome and important' return

Marketing's unique weekly analysis of ad recall in association with TNS.

Obesity is classified by many as the nation’s biggest health issue, and is reported to cost the NHS £5bn a year. Too many calories in, not enough being burned. Sound familiar?

Of course, the factors driving this health epidemic are deep-rooted and multifaceted, and the finger of blame is often pointed in the direction of marketing and advertising. Nonetheless, students of Prochaska and his legendary behaviour-change theory will know that, ‘academically speaking’ – judging by the increased national obesity levels – the majority of British citizens still seem to be in a state of pre-contemplation (denial) or contemplation (aware but need prompting into action).

This means addressing the issue is a massive task, but one in which comm­unication can play a strong role.

Successful communication requires a big and sustained thought – a campaign of integrated and simple messages delivered across multiple touchpoints to a broad church of the UK’s population. It also means engaging people in a message that they may not want to hear, or indeed believe to be an issue for them personally. Not an easy brief.

The Change4Life ‘Foodsmart’ campaign has made its way back on to our multi-screens following the false economy of an austerity-motivated blackout on public-information and awareness campaigns. It is dedicated to nudging people toward healthier eating and living, making them aware of the issue of obesity, providing tips, tools and support. By signing up to Change4Life online, families receive a compilation of healthy recipes, including a rather tasty turkey stirfry, plus ideas for daily menus.

Moving the dial on such a signif­icant and ingrained societal issue requires addressing all Prochaska’s behaviour stages – and this particular TV execution and supporting CRM work addresses them all in one fell swoop. Awareness (‘Honestly, you lot…!’); evidencing the problem (‘17 sugar cubes in a fizzy drink…’); plans and tips that can be acted upon (‘get a free meal mixer…’); and relationship-building (‘join Change4Life…’).

Dressed in the comforting and optimistic Aardman cartoon land­scape and voiced by an everyman cheeky chappy, this is a hard-arsed message in a ‘benign parenting’ wrapper – ‘under-the-radar’ commu­nications at its best. It delivers a tough message and supporting materials in a palatable and charming way. This work may not trouble creative awards juries, but it will get a few hundred thousand people to reconsider their diet, and therefore, potentially trouble the effectiveness juries once again.

Ironically, I was recently asked in an interview with the Health Service Journal why the NHS is unable to use integrated communications effective­ly to help drive the health agenda in the UK. My answer was simple: in many ways, it is responsible for one of the most compelling behaviour-change campaigns of recent years – Change4Life. This stage of the campaign continues to work hard against Britain’s biggest health issue.

Brand strategy verdict

A hard-arsed message dressed in a ‘benign parenting’ wrapper. A welcome and important return for the campaign against possibly the toughest brief in the UK.


Which of the following TV commercials do you remember seeing recently?
Latest rank Feb-07 Brand Agency/TV buyer Recall
1 (–) Virgin Media BBH/Fifty6 71
2 (–) Argos

CHI & Partners/


3 (–) Department of Health – Change4Life M&C Saatchi/MEC 56
4 (–) Aldi

McCann Manchester/

UM Manchester

5 (–) Mother/MediaCom 50
6 (–) McDonald’s Leo Burnett/OMD UK 48
7 (–) Aviva Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO/ZenithOptimedia 43
8 (–) The Health Lottery



9 (6) DFS Krow/MediaCom 37
10= (–) Kit Kat

JWT London/


10= (–) Sensodyne Pronamel

Grey London/


12 (17=) Harveys Enter/Walker Media 32
13 (13=) Direct Line

M&C Saatchi/


14 (–) Barclays BBH/Maxus 28
15= (–) Tesco

Wieden & Kennedy/


15= (–) Wickes MWO/Carat 26
15= (–) Kia Rio

Innocean Worldwide/

Havas Media

15= (–) Green Flag

CHI & Partners/


19 (–) Lynx BBH/Mindshare 25
20 (17=) Take a Break Kindred Agency/MEC 24

Adwatch research was conducted from 24-28 January 2013 by TNS as part of its twice-weekly OnLineBus omnibus among 1000 adults aged 16-64. For details of the survey, contact (020 7160 5550). Ads were compiled by Ebiquity (020 7650 9700) and Mediaedge:cia UK (020 7803 2000).