Freedom’s 200m price tag

David%20Benady%20120x120Snack food and alcohol producers are about to discover the price of freedom. And it looks like there will be small change from £200m.

That is the sum pledged by the promoters of fatty, sugary and salty foods to support the biggest healthy living crusade in history.

The snack food industry plans to use its skills in marketing to promote new, active and healthy lifestyles, and help reduce the UK’s apparently frightening levels of obesity.

Companies, including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, Mars and Nestlé, ITV and Channel 4, are all reaching into their pockets to help fund the Government’s health drive in the run-up to the London 2012 Olympics.

Their campaign – about which there are exasperatingly few details as yet – will tie into the Department of Health’s £75m “Change 4 Life” marketing onslaught against obesity. Ads will hit television screens early next year, though it is still unclear how the food and ad industry’s contribution will link into them.

Whether this £200m of largesse will save the junk food industry from ever-more draconian restrictions on their marketing activities is far from clear.

Alcohol producers, remember, have performed somersaults to prove they are responsible purveyors of booze. Yet these activities may not save them from the increasingly stringent restrictions on marketing. The University of Sheffield’s investigation into the relationship between price, promotion, advertising and problem boozing, commissioned by the

Department of Health, indicates likely Government action. The study, which published initial findings this week, says: increase the price and there will be less problem drinking. Ouch. Meanwhile increased advertising spend boosts demand for alcohol, surprise, surprise. Though, of course, ads have a tiny effect on consumption compared to price. These are not exactly astonishing findings but they are likely to influence Government policy on alcohol harm reduction

Surely the food industry’s £200m in support for health minister Alan Johnson’s biggest-ever health drive must buy them some brownie points? But whether it will save them from ever-harsher marketing restrictions will depend on how successful the campaigns are. Will they help reduce obesity levels?

It should be remembered that over the past two decades, sports and healthy living have become obsessions in the UK. Gymnasia have sprouted up across the country at an unprecedented rate, football mania has reached previously undreamt of levels and sporting “chic” is at an all-time high. Media are filled with health advice. Sports stars are the new celebrities, nudging out film stars and hard-living rock and rollers. Sports clothing dominates high street fashion. Nike has relentlessly told us to “just do it”, yet obesity has soared. So the idea that marketing campaigns can do much more to increase activity levels for certain groups and tackle obesity will take some proving.

Especially since health secretary Johnson has already shot one of social marketing’s most cunning foxes – fear.

Government responsibility campaigns have scored spectacular successes by splattering our TV screens with blood, gore, dead children, orphaned children, horrific hospital scenes, parents killed in car crashes and drunks falling off scaffolding. There’s nothing like presenting us with our darkest fears to encourage us to behave responsibly.

But Johnson has ruled out using such high-pressure threats in the fight against obesity. “Change4Life” will promote positive messages about the great benefits of healthy living. If that works, it really will be a change.

Latest from Marketing Week


Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now


Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.


From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.


Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3703 or email

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here