The new Health Secretary under the coalition government, Andrew Lansley, has recently announced the axing of the previous government’s £75 million advertising campaign to promote healthy living, which was introduced in an attempt to reduce the record levels of obesity in the UK. As Mark Sweney from the Guardian notes, the new administration is instead encouraging the food and drinks industry to get behind a social media campaign.
The Government has a huge deficit to cut, and it was always known that their marketing budget would be at the forefront of these cuts, but it is interesting that the government is highlighting the important effects of social media as a (inevitably cheaper) resource to combat obesity, rather than relying on traditional media, such as poster and television campaigns. Lansley says this will be "less a government campaign, more a social movement" and he encourages charities, local authorities and the commercial sector to all get involved. In return, he hinted that the Government would not seek stricter regulation of food and drink advertising.
This latter comment will no doubt be the cause of some great delight to the beleaguered food and drink industry which has been vilified by so-called consumer groups, and indeed by the previous administration, for, in their words, promoting unhealthy food and drinks, in particular to children, and thus in effect for causing the obesity crisis engulfing the country. As a result of this vilification, the industry has seen substantial and significant advertising content and scheduling restrictions imposed upon them. Any suggestion from the present government that this view now no longer holds sway will cause the food and drinks industry to breathe a sign of relief, although it will no doubt anger the health lobbies, and we can expect to see some criticism from them in the coming days and weeks.