Marketers brace for food-ad rules

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[London] Marketers are struggling against a crackdown on food advertising amid growing concern over obesity in Europe. New laws in France and Ireland will restrict food ads starting next year. And U.K. media regulator Ofcom decided against a ban on advertising food and drinks to children but some restrictions are likely. Marketers are trying to avert a clampdown with greater self-regulation.

Starting in September 2005, advertisers in France will have a choice between including health warnings on TV ads for any food or beverage with added sugar, salt or sweetener, or paying a tax equal to 1.5% of their annual ad budget to a national institute to promote healthier eating. In Ireland a ban on celebrities appearing in food and beverage ads aimed at children starts in January 2005, along with a mandatory health message in all confectionery spots. McDonald's Corp. is running a $1.8 million U.K. campaign aimed at kids featuring Ronald McDonald and animated fruit and vegetable characters called Yums. In two-minute singing-and-dancing animated spots, the Yums urge, "It's fun when you eat right and stay active." McDonald's said the campaign, by Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett, London, is a direct response to government calls for food marketers to promote more active lifestyles.