Prize promotions and the junk food ban

Prize promotions and the junk food ban. The government has announced it will be legislating to end the promotion of foods high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS). It’s going to do this by banning broadcast and online junk food advertising before 9pm and volume promotions such as ‘buy one get one free’, and stopping unhealthy products from being placed in ‘prominent locations’ both in physical stores in England and online. At least that’s what it said in its policy paper, Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives, which was published at the end of July.

It’s long been accepted that there are health risks associated with obesity and there is evidence that people who are overweight and then contract Covid-19 are more likely to be admitted to hospital, to an intensive care unit and to die from Covid-19 than those who are not overweight, so no one can fault the government’s motivation.

Impact of the government’s anti-obesity drive

However, the plans have come in for some quite intense criticism, particularly from food manufacturers, broadcasters and the advertising industry, all of which are already suffering from the economic impact of the lockdown. The Drum held an interesting debate on the topic, with representatives from Action on Sugar, the Advertising Association and the Internet Advertising Bureau, which is worth watching.

Of course, the government’s policy paper also has significant implications for the prize promotions industry, particularly the proposed ban on HFSS food in prominent locations, because the knock-on effect of that will be to put a stop to end-of-aisle promotions for HFSS products. Brands have traditionally used promotions to help them gain these prime positions, thus increasing their in-store visibility and driving sales, so it’s no exaggeration to say that a ban would be a serious blow to the prize promotions industry.

Rethinking prize promotions

I don’t propose to discuss the pros and cons of government policy here, or opine on whether the measures flagged by the government will really have the desired effect and reduce levels of obesity, but I am going to talk about how businesses and brands can address these plans in terms of prize promotions.

The first thing I have to say is – and in part I say this to myself, as well – don’t panic. Adapting to changes in the retail landscape may be challenging, but those challenges certainly aren’t insurmountable. The long and short of it is that in the future prize promotions, particularly on-pack prize promotions, will have to be stronger and they will have to work harder, but that’s OK – we can do this!

Formats and prizes

As with any challenge, the government’s proposals open up opportunities and coming up with a creative idea will still give your product stand-out, so think about the format of your prize promotion. For instance, text-to-win will still generate excitement and garner shelf space (for more on text-to-win, have a look at these campaigns which Prizeology ran for Weetabix and Pepsi Max).

Think about your prizes, too. The golden rule with prizes is always offer people what they want to win, but try to come up with prizes that will really wow consumers. Yes, there are product categories that are always a pull, but don’t go a particular prize solely because you can get a good deal on it. Not that making the most of your budget isn’t important – at Prizeology we know it is – but we also know how important it is to constantly make new relationships that enable us to source fresh, original prizes for our clients.

When the government introduces legislation to enact these policies, there’s no doubt that experience and expertise (ahem!) are going to be more important than ever, but prize promotions definitely aren’t over. The government hasn’t shown any signs of banning them altogether, it’s just altering the rules, but we can all play by those new rules and still produce compelling, effective prize promotions.

There’s no better time than now to start thinking about how to address the government’s plans and if you’d like to discuss how we can help with your prize promotions in the new era, do give us a call on 020 7856 0402 or send us an email.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist and a National Trading Standards Scams Team Scambassador.

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