Coke aims not to target under-12s

Coca-Cola's roster agencies, including Lowe, Mother and Soul, were this week facing a new challenge as the company pledged to stop promoting fizzy drinks to the under-12s.

The move came as leaders of the advertising and food and drink industries urged MPs to resist the clamour for a ban on food and drink commercials aimed at children. But members of the all-party Commons Health Select Committee have warned that they're likely to propose one.

In response, a coalition of food and ad industry representatives has been sounding out the Government about the possibility of a jointly funded campaign to promote healthy lifestyles.

Andrew Brown, the Advertising Association's director-general and one of those quizzed by the Commons committee, said: "We've avoided a tit-for-tat response to the attacks on us. We're determined to become part of the solution rather than be seen as the problem."

Coca-Cola is attempting to deflect criticism by stopping the marketing of all its brands, including Diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite, to children aged under 12.

The decision means they will not be advertised around children's TV programmes or marketed through promotions targeted at primary school children unless there is an educational or physical benefit.

The move towards a joint initiative follows a meeting chaired by the Cadbury Schweppes chairman, John Sunderland, and representatives of ISBA, the AA and the Food and Drink Federation.

Industry sources say the Government is receptive to the idea of a joint campaign but wants to see concrete plans from the industry before committing itself.

At present, the industry is trying to identify the areas of activity on which it should concentrate and the best way to co-operate with the various government stakeholders in the obesity debate including the departments of health and education and the Food Standards Agency.

Brown told the Commons hearing that an ad ban would not provide a "short-term fix" to the problem of child obesity. What was needed was a long-term campaign similar to that designed to combat drinking and driving.

However, MPs are alarmed that the £2 million spent on campaigns urging children to consume healthy products is no match for the £600 million promoting commercial foods.

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