The war on junk food TV advertising seems destined to rumble on for the foreseeable future, with Mexico the latest nation to mobilise an assault on brands it sees as central to the country’s obesity epidemic.
The North American country holds the unwanted distinction of being one of the world’s most overweight populations – with 70% of adults and a huge 30% of children qualifying as obese. This has led to a considerable tightening of regulations around the airing of TV advertising campaigns that promote high-calorie foods and soft drinks.
A Growing Worldwide Issue
According to the new legislations, TV advertisements promoting products that fall into the junk food category will be prohibited from 14:30pm to 19:30pm during weekdays, and at weekends between 07:30am and 19:30pm. However, cracks in this approach begin to appear when considering that, despite banning advertising during certain daytime hours, a brand such as Coca Cola is still likely to achieve the same amount of impacts through advertising in peak only.
Of course, Mexico is not the first nation to administer such a ban; indeed the UK and Norway have both made strides to restrict ads being aired during children’s TV shows, yet problems persist.
Currently, health experts are concerned by the growing trend of advertisers promoting junk food products throughout TV content angled towards the whole family, typically during early peak when TV viewing audiences are often at their highest. Like Mexico, the UK has an exceptionally high obesity rate, with nearly 60% of adults technically falling into this category.
A report commissioned by the British Heart Foundation and the Children's Food Campaign illustrated how in 2013 22% of ads shown during prime time were promoting food, with 13% of those campaigns centred on fast food. A further 10% were for sweets and chocolate.
Clearly, there is a problem with how such TV ads are filtering through to younger, susceptible audiences. Yes, the onus is on parents to exert discipline and cultivate positive habits in their young, yet the task is made extremely difficult by the lack of regulation currently enforced on an over-saturated fast food market.
The Power of TV Advertising
What all of this demonstrates is the sheer power TV advertising has on the viewer. Measures need to be taken to ensure audiences of a more impressionable nature are protected from products or services that could have an injurious impact on health and perceptions.
Emotionally, TV advertising packs one hell of a punch. Through a combination of beguiling sounds and images, persuasive calls to action and emotive angles, no other medium is quite so effective in engaging the viewer. Additionally, TV is widely regarded as the dominant youth medium, with last year seeing 62% of the UK's 16-34 population reached by commercial TV every day.
In an era where it's never been easier to accurately target specific audience groups with targeted TV advertising strategies – and in an environment currently bereft of necessary regulation – it's vital that both advertisers and media agencies act conscientiously when planning TV advertising campaigns. The television industry is not only pivotal to the national economy, but also to society and the moral compass directing our actions. Whilst businesses have never had access to such media power, with power comes responsibility.