The cheeky ads, which have been the hallmark of Walkers' television advertising since since 1995, are being replaced by a new health-focused TV campaign to be launched on March 1. The dietary message comes in the wake of government moves to curb advertising of unhealthy snacks to children to halt a growing tide of obesity among the young.
In the new ads, from incumbent agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, Lineker compares the salt level of Walkers and a slice of bread, and the fat contained in the crisps with that of a chocolate biscuit. He tells viewers that Walkers now has 70% less saturated fat, which equals 8% of the guideline daily allowance per pack.
The ad ends with Lineker saying: "Just thought you'd like to know."
The new message is a stark shift from the long-running humorous campaign, originally devised by the late John Webster of BMP, in which Lineker took on various comic guises in his effort to get his hands on Walkers Crisps.
Earlier this month, Walkers announced that its crisps would be fried using sunseed oil, a special type of sunflower oil, and the salt content would be cut. Sunseed oil is naturally high in mono-saturates and lower in saturated fat than other oils.
The new recipe reduces the saturated fat content in a packet of Walkers cheese and onion crisps from 3.5g to 0.9g, although the overall fat content is unchanged.
Along with other major snack producers, PepsiCo earlier this month signed up to a new labelling system that contains information on how much fat, sugar and salt contents contribute to recommended daily intakes.
However, the National Consumer Council claimed that the food giants were cynically making changes to labelling in order to pre-empt plans by the Food Standard Agency for tougher industry-standard guidelines on food labelling.
Broadcasting regulator Ofcom is set to announce restrictions on TV advertising in line with the new guidelines from the Foods Standards Agency. The FSA has urged sports celebrities such as Lineker and David Beckham, the frontman for Pepsi, not to promote unhealthy food and drinks.
Creative on the Walkers ads was by Peter Souter, deputy chairman of AMV.
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