News / Children's Food Campaign

Transport for London declares junk food ad ban a success as revenues announced

London's transport network praises Healthier Food Advertising Policy and cites Covid as cause of £100m advertising losses in 2020.

Credit: Sustain

Credit: Sustain

Transport for London (TfL) has announced that their advertising revenues have decreased by more than two thirds from £158.3 million to £50 million in 2020 due to Covid. They were quick to point out that the Mayor of London's policy to restrict advertising of unhealthy foods and drinks across the transport network had seen them maintain good advertising figures and had no bearing on these financial losses.

Chris Macleod, Customer and Revenue director at Transport for London said: "the policy has worked - revenues are down because of Covid, not because of our ban on high in fat, salt or sugar products or anything else like that." The financial figures speak for themselves. In the first year after the advertising restrictions were introduced in February 2019, there were no advertising revenue losses. In fact, advertising revenues increased by £2.3 million by March 2020. However, it was a very different story the following year as Covid impacted on commuter journeys, and companies pulled out of advertising on the network.

Revenues have always been a talking point for the advertising restrictions, with critics of the policy publicly guessing annual losses would reach £35 million when the policy was first introduced. A number which failed to materialise pre-Covid, in part because the policy still enables Transport for London to take advertising revenues from the major food and drinks companies. They simply need to swap out their unhealthy foods and drinks for healthier ones in the advertising copy. Generally, TfL have seen this to be the case with companies switching to advertising healthier foods and drinks in order to comply with the policy.

In February 2019, the Mayor of London, introduced the Healthier Food Advertising Policy on the Transport for London network to improve children's health and address health inequalities. This followed public consultations which showed that 82% of Londoners were supportive of the proposals. The policy swaps out advertising of unhealthy food and drinks, and replaces them with healthier products. Sustain advised the Mayor of London’s team on writing and implementing the Healthier Food Advertising Policy and has subsequently supported 4 local authorities to bring in their own policies: Bristol, Haringey, Merton and Southwark. More than 60 local authorities have contacted Sustain for support with their own local Healthier Food Advertising Policies and continue to progress this work. 

If your local government would like support with implementing its own Healthier Food Advertising Policy, please contact Fran Bernhardt on fran@sustainweb.org

Published 5 Jul 2021

Children's Food Campaign: Better food and food teaching for children in schools, and protection of children from junk food marketing are the aims of Sustain's high-profile Children's Food Campaign. We also want clear food labelling that can be understood by everyone, including children.

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