When was the last time you saw a TV commercial for Co-op
supermarkets? Can’t remember? Me neither.
Nor am I breathless with anticipation about the next burst of
advertising, which promises to be as dismal as the Co-op shopping
experience. No glitz.
Just worthy messages telling kids to eat their greens.
In an outburst of self-righteousness, the Co-op has pledged to man the
barricades against the invasion of children’s TV programming by
unscrupulous advertisers pushing ’unhealthy’ food and drink to an
audience of innocents.
Given the Co-operative movement’s long-standing commitment to social
justice, we have to assume that the retailer is sincere about what it’s
doing. Others, though, may see this as an act of sanctimonious humbug
that takes the biscuit - one that’s low in fat, sugar or salt, that
The Co-op’s pledge to use its TV advertising to promote healthy diets
might seem less of an empty gesture if it was a significant TV
advertiser and were it not for the fact that supermarkets rarely use TV
to promote individual products - except as part of a special offer - but
rather to show what jolly nice places they are.
Nor has the Co-op proved itself very astute with its PR. Taking an
ethical stand is one thing. Publicly implying that some of your
suppliers are helping to produce a generation of fatties is another.
Of course it’s easy to be taken in by the Co-op’s rallying cry. Nobody
in their right mind would like to see children doomed to serious illness
and early death by junk food. But banning ads for sweets and highly
sugared soft drinks will do nothing to resolve a problem with much
Unhealthy eating has much more to do with the pace of modern life and
the death of family mealtimes than it has with commercial advertising,
which can never be a tool for social engineering. The fact is that
children like sweets because they taste nice and hate vegetables because
they don’t - and the most creative advertising in the world won’t change
What’s more, the Co-op is taking action on the back of some dubious
Asking parents if they want to see a ban on advertising that
’blackmails’ them into buying is like asking the Pope if he is against
sin. You know what the answer will be.
And the 51 per cent of children who claim not to take ’no’ for an answer
when pestering for products they see advertised have either succumbed to
braggadocio or are offering a damning indictment of their spineless
parents who need more help than a mere ad ban can give.
If the Co-op is really as committed as it claims, then it must take the
commercial risk of removing the offending products from its shelves.
Failure to do so will lay it open to charges that it is using cynical
and cheap publicity to aid a struggling brand.
And the Co-op is much too principled to do a thing like that, isn’t