Editorial: Creativity can overcome new food ad restrictions

There's no doubt that the advertising industry was dealt an old-style Labour slap by the recommendations of the White Paper last week.

Consumers will no longer be allowed the freedom of choice about what they eat; instead, advertising restrictions will attempt to prevent them hearing about a wide range of food products.

Last week's ruling was the first round - now Ofcom has a crucial role to play in arguing the case for advertisers and somehow reaching some kind of compromise, hopefully rooted in logic. Ofcom's success, or otherwise, will determine the destiny of £400 million in adspend. Although we can be pretty sure that 30-second spots for unhealthy foods in children's programming will become impossible, there will be loopholes and legitimate channels for that spend.

So here lies the challenge. And it's a challenge that should be relished.

When tobacco advertising restrictions were first put in place, agencies could no longer show a cool guy leaning on an expensive car smoking a cigarette. The default creative route was no longer an option, and instead agencies had to apply unprecedented degrees of lateral thinking to their communications. The result: some of the smartest advertising of all time.

Benson & Hedges Gold reacted by applying surrealism. Silk Cut, too, went abstract.

And it's not just in the creative department that the challenge will be met. Planners will have to reboot their approach to marketing fatty foods and media strategists will have to devise new communications channels. Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and Walkers appear to have done some clever forward planning with their current campaign supporting Walkers' pedometer giveaway.

The White Paper may be an insult to the British public's intelligence and a threat to the immediate income of media owners, but it's also an opportunity that will enable the industry to demonstrate its talent for meeting difficult briefs.

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