Can creativity prevail in the face of tighter health legislation?

Seb is Marketing Week’s agency specialist.

Last week, creative directors from BrandOpus, Echo Brand Design and JKR voiced their concerns to Pitch that mounting legislation around fast food could hinder creativity.

Speaking about the implications of McDonald’s decision to voluntarily list calorie information in all of its UK restaurants, the agencies felt that other brands may be pressured to follow suit.

McDonalds calorie counts

Interestingly, all three were also quick to point out that abiding closely to legislation could be a great way to provide transparency for their clients, but only if consumers are given all the relevant information to make informed decisions rather than resorting to scare tactics.

Avril Tooley, client services director at BrandOpus explains: “By only presenting consumers with calorie content, McDonald’s are offering them a linear choice.”

“Transparency should offer you choices. What about other important measurements such as fat, salt and sugar?”

It’s true that transparency builds trust and over the years great agencies have built great brands on trust. Agencies should remember this instead of resorting to solutions that aren’t going to resonate with consumers because they’re too linear.

A linear strategy only adds friction to the purchase decision rather than promoting it and could limit consumer choice.

David Bicknell, creative director at Echo Brand Design, told me last week that if his team had been working on the McDonald’s calorie brief, they would have adhered to legislation differently and “played on their product as being a reward outside of people’s balanced diet, because no one goes into McDonald’s thinking whatever they purchase is going to be part of a healthy routine.”

This is a cool idea, and although it still needs to find a way to educate consumers, the creative concept would play on McDonald’s strong brand proposition of quick convenience food.

For me, it all comes down to people-centred communications first and foremost. Agencies need to focus on driving brand propositions in line with consumers’ needs and perceptions, rather than solely on the creative concept. And legislation should be seen as a helpful marker for achieving this.

Seb Joseph

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