London, March 7 2019: The Advertising Association has today published a report setting out the advertising industry’s perspective on the challenge of childhood obesity in the UK. The new report – The challenge of childhood obesity – includes new data showing children’s exposure to HFSS advertising has dramatically reduced over recent years. The average child sees around 11.5 seconds of HFSS advertising on TV and online a day. This amounts to about one hundredth of one percent of a child’s day.
The new report recognises obesity is a serious problem, impacting the health, well-being and life outcomes of the nation’s children. But the report shows this is a complex social issue, with child obesity levels strongly affected by lifestyle and geography.
The report goes on to highlight:
- UK advertising rules are among the strictest in the world and already restrict the advertising of HFSS food or drink products in and around TV programmes commissioned for, or likely to appeal to children. The rules for all other media, including online, restrict HFSS ads where under 16s make up more than 25% of the audience.
- If exposure to food adverts is a credible factor in obesity prevalence, it would be expected that the dramatic reduction in exposure to HFSS advertising over the past 10 years would have had a more significant impact on child obesity levels.
- Ofcom’s analysis in 2010 was that HFSS exposure by children on TV had fallen by 37% since the introduction of the rules in 2008.
- Since then, BARB data shows there has been a 41% fall in all food advertising exposure by children.
- Brands advertising online can use tools accurately to direct HFSS advertisements away from children and young people, so that online exposure to such ads by under 16s is minimal at 0.5 seconds a day.
Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive, Advertising Association, commented:
“Further restrictions on advertising are not the silver bullet for rising childhood obesity. The UK already has among the strictest and most effective restrictions on the exposure of children to the advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar anywhere in the world. A continuing focus on the failed strategy of further advertising restriction is founded on the misplaced belief that children are ‘bombarded’ by HFSS advertising. To the contrary, the rise in obesity has occurred during a decade of declining exposure to HFSS advertising, and declining calorie intake.”
Evidence in the report suggests that a lack of exercise is what is driving the continued prevalence of obesity among certain groups in the UK, rather than the food itself. A 2015 NHS study demonstrates the limited number of children meeting daily physical activity guidelines. Only 28% of 5-7 year olds met the recommended daily amount of physical activity, and as children get older, their already low activity levels decline further. By the time children reach the ages of 13-15, only 12% meet the recommended amount of daily activity. The new report also includes real world examples of how to change lifestyles and increase activity levels. These include models from Amsterdam and The Daily Mile in the UK.
“Any effective solution must focus first and foremost on countering the dramatic declines in physical activity and calories expended. This report demonstrates with how advertising can play a key role in promoting healthy lifestyles, alongside real-world solutions to meet the challenge of obesity.”
For further information, please contact:
Matt Bourn, Director of Communications
Matthew Evans, Communications Manager