Fast-food chain Burger King will stop making ads aimed at children and will no longer advertise during kids’ TV programmes in the UK from the end of the year.
The burger chain’s announcement comes ahead of an expected clampdown on “junk food” advertising by media regulator Ofcom. The regulator is meeting this week to decide whether to impose a ban on fast-food ads before 9pm.
Burger King’s voluntary ban, which will take effect from December 22, is part of a six-month review of the fast-food chain’s marketing and brand positioning.
Vice president for north-west Europe Giorgi Minardi says it will continue to use its “Have it your way” message and its restaurant advertising will remain unchanged.
Media industry sources are not surprised by the move and say a “vast majority” of advertisers are moving voluntarily out of airtime during kids’ programming.
Universal McCann broadcast director Richard Oliver says: “It is a growing social issue and children’s channels are already beginning to feel the effect of such advertisers pulling spend. I don’t think there is anyone out there sticking their head in the sand.”
But Richard Watts, coordinator of Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign, says Burger King’s announcement contains half measures and is “too little, too late”.
Watts adds that Burger King should impose a ban on advertising until 9pm and stop airing its latest campaign, “Manthem”, which he says is aimed squarely at impressionable young teenagers by focusing on the phrase “Are you man enough?”.
Advertising food to children came under the spotlight in 2003 following a Food Standards Agency warning that one in ten six-year-olds was obese.
Kraft Foods pledged to change portion sizes and the way it marketed to children, with similar pledges from Coca-Cola, which has a policy of not marketing to children under 12, and Pepsi.
Ten of America’s biggest food advertisers yesterday (Tuesday) unveiled the biggest rewrite of children’s advertising guidelines for 32 years. Brands including Cadbury Schweppes, Campbell’s Soup, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever and Kraft Foods have agreed to devote at least half of their advertising aimed at children to “promote healthy dietary choices and/or to encourage good nutrition or healthy lifestyles”.