Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, junk food ad ban: 5 things that mattered this week and why

Before you head off for the weekend, catch up all this week’s biggest marketing news from Coca-Cola’s return to advertising to the government’s planned junk food ad ban.

Junk foodJunk food ads banned pre-watershed amid government health push

After years of proposals and speculation, the UK government has unveiled plans to introduce a ban on junk food advertising across TV and online prior to the 9pm watershed.

In a raft of measures intended to curb the UK’s obesity “time bomb”, Number 10 has outlawed ‘Buy one get one free’ deals on unhealthy food and imposed restrictions on where high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) products can be promoted in store, including a ban on chocolates, crisps and sweets being sold at the checkout.

From now on restaurant, cafe or takeaway chains with more than 250 employees will be required to label the calories of their meals on the menu, and the government is considering similar plans for alcoholic drinks. Number 10 is also debating whether to outlaw HFSS adverts online altogether.

While brands and broadcasters may welcome the sentiment behind the proposals, there are serious concerns about the impact the ban will have. Estimates are the proposals could cost British broadcasters more than £200m in lost revenue. It is thought ITV alone could lose £100m in income, while the loss to Channel 4 would in the region of £40m.

Critics of the strategy also point to confusion over the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ promotion, which will offer consumers a 50% discount on food up to the value of £10 per diner, between 3 to 31 August. The deal includes meals bought at fast food chains and those high in fat, sugar and salt.

A vehement critic of the plans, the IPA said the proposals have come at the “worst possible time for the advertising sector”, adding that the government’s own research shows a TV ad ban would reduce children’s consumption by only 1.7 calories a day.

The debate will rage as to whether the benefits of outlawing HFSS advertising on public health will outweigh the cost to brands, broadcasters and agencies already struggling to cope amid Covid-19.

READ MORE: Government rolls out junk food ad ban

McDonald’s prepares to spend marketing ‘war chest’

mcdonald'sIn a comment that should strike fear in the hearts of fast food rivals, McDonald’s says it is planning to spend the marketing “war chest” it saved up in the first half of the year in the final six months of 2020, as it looks to boost its post-Covid recovery.

As coronavirus spread around the globe, McDonald’s pulled back on marketing in many markets. To give an idea of the scale of that decline, in the US its marketing spend was down 70%.

It now plans to spend the money it saved, as well as an incremental $200m on top. It will be spending so much it will be like having the equivalent of one additional month of media in every market where it operates.

That has already kicked off in the UK, where last week McDonald’s welcomed customers back with a campaign focused on the Big Mac, while the fast food chain has also been pushing its delivery service. And from these comments it seems this is just the beginning.

READ MORE: McDonald’s prepares to spend marketing ‘war chest’ to boost recovery from Covid

Coke ends ad spend hiatus with vision of a ‘better normal’

After pausing all UK advertising in April due to the coronavirus crisis, Coca-Cola has kicked back into gear with a multimillion-pound campaign looking forward to a time of social and cultural change post-pandemic.

Described by Coke as a “declaration of intent”, the ‘Open Like Never Before’ campaign features a manifesto poem penned by London-based spoken word performer George ‘The Poet’ Mpanga. Appearing in the UK and wider European markets from tomorrow, the campaign will run across TV, video-on-demand (VoD) and out-of-home.

The drinks giant is also launching a “sustained programme” of grassroots activities designed to support hotels, cafes and restaurants hardest hit by the Covid-19 lockdown.

The raft of support includes a donation of “multimillion pounds” worth of media budget and advertising space to hundreds of existing commercial customers. Through the ad creator platform, Coke will help these small businesses develop ads for digital, social and outdoor to promote their restaurant, bar or shop.

Senior vice-president of marketing in EMEA, Walter Susini, insists it was right for the company to come off air and redirect $120m (£93m) into coronavirus relief efforts globally. Now with the advertising hiatus over, he hopes the campaign will inspire people to search for a “better normal”, although he admits society has been on a “difficult journey”.

One current difficulty for Coke is deciding what action to take regarding its social media boycott. The company joined the #StopHateforProfit campaign, pausing all paid and organic social media for at least 30 days beginning on 1 July. Now in the midst of reassessing its internal advertising standards and policies, Coke will discuss how it intends to proceed post-boycott in the coming days.

READ MORE: Coca-Cola ends ad spend hiatus with campaign calling for a ‘better normal’

How the government’s new campaign will tackle adult health

We’ve already covered some of the government’s plans to tackle the UK’s obesity crisis with its junk food ad ban, but it isn’t stopping there. It also tasked Public Health England with addressing the problem with the launch of an adult health platform.

‘Better Health’ was conceived and developed in just eight weeks. It aims to build on what marketing director Sheila Mitchell calls a “reset moment” in the UK around health caused by the coronavirus crisis.

It will initially focus on obesity given the scale of the problem and the correlation between being overweight and being hospitalised due to Covid-19. This will be followed up with messaging around health issues such as exercise, smoking and mental wellbeing.

PHE is trying to strike a balance between getting people to realise the seriousness of the country’s health problems, but doing so without “nannying or hectoring”. It’s a fine line to tread, made even more difficult by the sensitive nature of talking about weight.

Yet as Mitchell says, if the coronavirus crisis can’t help the country reset its relationship with health nothing can.

READ MORE: ‘This is a real reset moment’: Government campaign aims to tackle adult obesity

NatWest reverses decision to scrap CMO role

NatWestAt at time when a lot of brands appear to be retrenching from marketing – cutting spend and jobs – it’s refreshing to see a company understanding the value of the discipline.

Earlier this year, NatWest Group (then RBS) said it would scrap the CMO role following the retirement of David Wheldon, believing the board level marketing role to be surplus to requirements. Instead, it was in the market for a director of marketing that would not be such a heavyweight appointment or sit on the board.

What a difference five months makes. NatWest has reversed that decision and hired a CMO to the board who will report directly into CEO Alison Rose. She now describes the role as “vital”, saying that the banking group’s ability to talk to customers about how it does business will “set it apart”.

Margaret Jobling, previously CMO at Centrica Group, will take on the job. It’s a fantastic appointment on both sides and one that should help NatWest as it looks to put its past firmly behind it.

READ MORE: NatWest reverses decision to scrap the CMO role as it hires Margaret Jobling