Call for government to regulate unhealthy food and drink advertising
The recent complaint by a parent about a brightly coloured ad for a sugary drink on the side of a school bus has shown how poorly the advertising industry codes protect children.
The ad for a bright red and green Hungry Jacks slushie was on the side of a school bus outside a primary school in Sydney. It shows an excited young female with brightly coloured hair holding an oversized drink containing “jelly belly” bursties. The drink has over 10 teaspoons of sugar per serve.
Ad Standards considered the complaint against the advertiser, Hungry Jack’s, using the advertising industry’s Food and Beverages code. Ad Standards found the advertisement breached the code for several reasons; the drink is unhealthy, frozen sugary drinks are generally appealing to children and the ad had colourful visuals and an exciting theme that “would attract the attention and interest of children under 15 ahead of any other audience”.
Hungry Jack’s responded to say they “have taken steps towards removing the advertisement from bus sides”, but strongly disagreed with the decision and intend to pursue an independent review of the determination. There are no financial penalties to the advertiser when a breach has occurred. How long have these buses with the colourful sugary drink ads been delivering children to school or passing them as they wait at a bus stop? And how long will they continue displaying the ad until it is removed? It’s been over four months and counting, and the Jelly Belly Bursties ad campaign is still appearing on the sides of public buses, not to mention on social media and YouTube.
The NSW government could act now to remove junk food ads from buses and other public transport. The government has control over these assets and shouldn’t be taking money for sugary drinks ads. A decision like that by the government would mean that this ad for a sugary drink would never have made it onto buses.
We need independent government regulation to protect children from food marketing, not weak industry codes that allow ads to proceed and then are retrospectively removed. Regulation needs to be comprehensive to cover unhealthy advertising that children see as we know it influences what they eat.