NMA: Online HFSS Ad Ban ‘Entirely Disproportionate’

The NMA does not support an “entirely disproportionate” total online ban on HFSS advertising because the evidence does not demonstrate a compelling causal link between advertising exposure and childhood obesity.

Ahead of a Commons debate on obesity today, the NMA said that a blanket restriction which would impact on environments – such as news publisher websites – not used by children made “little sense.”

“We are concerned that the current proposal risks limiting advertiser choice in environments where there is little risk of children encountering this product category and further impacting on an industry which already faces significant challenges in monetising its content online,” the NMA said in a briefing for Parliamentarians.

“Should the Government wish to pursue restrictions, then we accept concerns raised by stakeholders of the need to ensure a degree of parity between mediums with significant child audiences: a total online ban is an entirely disproportionate means of limiting children’s exposure to HFSS advertising.”

The NMA has been engaged in offering an alternative industry self-regulatory approach to the Government, which would meet its stated objective of limiting children from seeing HFSS ads, while ensuring that different stakeholders in the advertising ecosystem are treated fairly and allowing advertisers the freedom to advertise legal products to adults.

Advertising Association chief executive Stephen Woodford said: “We are dismayed at the Government’s decision, announced in today’s Queen’s Speech, that it is going to press ahead with a 9pm watershed and total online ban on HFSS advertising.

“The Government’s own evidence shows that such measures will be ineffective in tackling obesity. The country needs balanced, consistent and well-evidenced policy interventions that will make a positive difference.

“The 9pm watershed and online ban will not reduce obesity levels, but will damage business and innovation and put jobs at risk.”