Bacon roll: 0, Avocado: 1 as radio ad banned

Growth: Global avocado production more than doubled between 2000 and 2016 due to rising demand.

Is the ban patronising? Regulators have axed a Costa Coffee advert for characterising avocados as a “poor breakfast choice”, and promoting bacon rolls. Not everyone was pleased by the move.

“Oh, there’s a great deal on ripen-at-home avocados,” the voice-over begins. “Sure, they’ll be hard as rock for the first 18 days, three hours and 20 minutes, then they’ll be ready to eat, for about 10 minutes, then they’ll go off. For a better deal, head to Costa Coffee and grab a delicious, piping hot bacon roll or egg muffin.”

With its tongue-in-cheek humour, this radio advert was supposed to be enticing. But for some, it left a bad taste in the mouth.

That was the case for the two people who, after hearing it, contacted the Advertising Standards Authority. They claimed it breached the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising, which states that “comparisons between foods must not discourage the selection of options such as fresh fruit and fresh vegetables”.

Regulators upheld these complaints, banning the ad from being aired again. In a statement they said it was “light-hearted”, but insisted that ads must not “encourage poor nutritional habits”.

The move did not go down well on Twitter. “Do they think we are so stupid?” one user wrote. “What is this country coming to?” complained another.

Despite this anger, statistics suggest that regulators could have a point.

A Costa bacon roll contains 6 grams of saturated fat (the same as a McDonald’s cheeseburger). If you had one for breakfast, it would take approximately 105 minutes of walking to burn off the calories. By contrast, a typical serving of avocado contains 2 grams of saturated fat.

Concern is also growing about the impact of junk food advertising, particularly on children.

Last year, researchers claimed that young people are routinely “bombarded” by up to 12 junk food ads per hour during popular TV programmes. Another study found that 50% of food and drink ads seen by children are for junk food, sugary drinks or fast food restaurants.

NHS research estimates that 28% of children aged two to 15 are overweight or obese. In some areas of London, this figure rises above 49%.

Is the Costa advert ban patronising or a good move?

Causing ’avoc

It is a good thing, some argue. The advert clearly encouraged a poor diet: eating bacon instead of avocado may seem like a small thing, but choices like this could lead to an early death. Furthermore, with child obesity rates as they are, we must encourage healthy eating as much as possible. This ban is a small but important step.

Nonsense, others respond. We are not stupid. People can make their own decisions without the state intervening on trivial matters like bacon roll adverts. When it comes to young people, they must be taught to take responsibility for their diet — not hidden away from all unhealthy food. Such a world would be joyless, prohibitive and depressing.

You Decide

  1. Should the advert have been banned?
  2. Should all junk food adverts be banned?

Activities

  1. Consider the text of the Costa advert written at the start of this article. Analyse its language as you would do with a poem or part of a novel. How does the ad use language effectively? Pick out specific words and techniques. Do you think it is convincing? Why/why not?
  2. Do some research into child obesity rates. Use the Full Fact link to start with, but then look more widely. Based on the figures you have found, would you say that child obesity is a serious public health issue? What are the most effective ways of reducing it? Would a crackdown on junk food advertising do much good?

Some People Say...

“Advertising is legalised lying.”

H.G. Wells

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Breaking down the NHS statistics reveals that 16% of children aged two to 15 are obese, while 12% are overweight. This calculation is measured using body mass index (BMI), which divides a child’s weight by their height. NHS guidelines state that BMI is “a straightforward and convenient method of assessing weight”, however the index “cannot tell the difference between excess fat, muscle or bone.”
What do we not know?
While the banned Costa advert was intended for the radio, most research on the influence of junk food advertising focuses on television and online advertising. We do not know the extent to which radio advertising has a similar impact.

Word Watch

Avocados
Consumption of avocados has rocketed in recent years. In 2000, 15 million pounds of avocados were eaten in the United States. By 2018, this figure had risen to 50 million.
6 grams
According to Nutrition IX.
Saturated fat
A diet low in saturated fat is recommended to lower the risk of various life-threatening illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer.
Researchers
From Liverpool University. In one instance they found that an episode of ITV’s The Voice, watched by 708,500 children, featured 12 ads for foods high in salt, fat and sugar, including Domino’s pizza and McVitie’s chocolate biscuits.
Study
By the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Areas
The UK’s worst area for childhood obesity is Camberwell Green in London, where 50.9% of children or overweight or obese.
Patronising
Speaking or behaving towards someone as if they are stupid or not important.

Subjects

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