Opinion: Perspective - Why ads cannot be part of the fast-food solution

As Soichiro Honda said: "The product doesn't lie." So this week's decision to de-gut the Little Chef does not mean that the all-day breakfast packs any fewer calories or that a knickerbocker glory will no longer make friends with your thighs.

It's simply the latest sledgehammer knee-jerk reaction to the obesity debate. Fat is bad, so the Little Chef's being put on a diet, though certainly not one which would embrace much of the stuff on his own menu. Consumers know this of course but, at point of piggery, it matters little; what they don't want is a nagging reminder of the fact that it's getting harder to see their feet.

So trimming down the omnipresent Little Chef logo presses all the right, straining, buttons and is certainly a more cost-effective and commercially sound decision than trying to convert Little Chef into a home of healthy eating. The brand has a fantastic network of outlets but has long seemed tired, old-fashioned and tacky. After it was bought out of Forte by the private equity company Permira last year, a facelift has been on the cards.

Where better to start than the logo and if that allows hitching a ride on the diet-conscious bandwagon, so much the better. And when was the last time you read a story in The Sun about Little Chef?

Little wonder that more companies are making such gestures. As public consciousness is being raised over the dangers of obesity, the fast-food sector is facing all manner of punitive measures and advertisers are scrambling over themselves to address the dangers of obesity.

But there's a real danger that such a rush to overturn decades of disregard for healthy eating with a superficial message could backfire by stoking the passions of the lobbyists still further. Take the new McDonald's work, called Yum Chums. A more crass, overt and clumsy response to the healthy eating debate is hard to conjure.

For those of you without children, here's the gist: a rather unattractive, English-accented Ronald McDonald introduces the Yums, which live in our tummys. The Yums sing about keeping fit, eating fruit and veg and not having too many treats. It's not made by McDonald's agency, Leo Burnett, and, at two minutes long without an overt commercial message, looks more like a piece of editorial.

Therein lies the real danger. This "ad" is not advertising a product and it looks like a programme; but every kid knows who Ronald McDonald is and will associate him with yummy burgers. When I saw it on TV the other day it surfed neatly on the editorial endorsement of the surrounding programming and that makes it a far more invidious, offensive plug than any McDonald's ad that shows a big burger and fries. It only adds weight to the lobbyists calling for a blanket ban.

The British Heart Foundation, The British Medical Association and Sustain are poised to lend their support to the promotional activity surrounding the anti-fast food movie Super Size Me, which opens in the UK next month.

There's no doubt that Morgan Spurlock's documentary charting his month eating only McDonald's will fan debate. As the Yum Chums prove, it's hard for advertising to be both part of the problem yet also part of the solution, which is why a considered, industry-wide approach, rather than a half-cock ad blitz like this one, must take a more overt lead in defending the right to advertise. As Honda also said: "Action without philosophy is a lethal weapon. Philosophy without action is worthless."