Outsmart responds to Transport for London

Changes to TfL advertising policy simply add to the confusion around advertising HFSS food

27th June 2019

New revisions to Transport for London’s (TfL’s) advertising policy create more confusion than clarity on the issue of food advertising in London. The revisions, implemented without industry engagement, adds further complexity in areas such as portion sizes and incidental occurrences that will result in unnecessary additional process and cost to public services.


The Mayor of London’s use of the Nutrition Profiling Model (NPM) to determine media restrictions on food High in Fat Sugar and Salt (HFSS) has conversely led to the banning of ads featuring organic butter and olive oil, whilst allowing buckets of fried chicken and hamburgers to line the tube walls.


A spokesman for Outsmart commented:


“These recent changes to the TfL policy continue to show how difficult it is to apply a ‘one size fits all’ approach to defining what is healthy for consumers and children.


“Retrospective revision of the TfL rules, only 4 months after implementation, is further evidence that this policy was rushed through for political gain and took no note of industry warnings on the complexities involved. These have now proven to be justified and this ad-hoc goalpost-shifting, again without any proper process or consultation, will do nothing to mask the myriad of problems which exist in implementing this policy.


“There is no proof that banning outdoor advertising will reduce childhood obesity, but the Mayor’s rules are utterly confusing to the general public and advertisers. It’s disappointing that this has again happened without any meaningful engagement with industry, who had highlighted these challenges many months ago.


“We will continue to offer our Collaborative Model to local authorities, as a more pragmatic and evidence-based solution to the nationwide childhood obesity challenge.”


Evidence suggests that advertising bans are a blunt and expensive tool, taking money away from the public purse with no proven effect that they will lead to a reduction in childhood obesity. It is estimated that the TFL ban will cost £35m.
On the other hand, successful and proven anti-obesity schemes have involved the power of using positive messaging and choices to effect real behavioural change. This is why the out of home advertising industry is keen to play its part, harnessing the power of advertising to promote healthy choices by kids as part of a collaborative model. Among a package of proposed measures, Outsmart is offering millions of pounds worth of out of home inventory to local authorities for free, to be used for marketing campaigns that promote healthy lifestyles, nutritional advice and increased physical activity. For more information, please visit: www.getsmartoutside.org.uk