'Junk' Food Debate Rages On, But Won't Personal Responsibility Prevail?

The term "patronising" has had a big week. Grant Shapps had the insult levelled at him for his rather crass creative suggesting the Tories had helped working people do what "they" want to do, although it wasn't quite clear if it was a spoof that had backfired or his heartfelt view the working class really is motivated by bingo and beer. Then the term was levelled at Labour for their sniping at the Chancellor allowing Britons to take their pension pot at retirement rather than being forced to buy an annuity which, anyone can tell you, will turn tens of thousands of hard-earned pounds in to a weekly pittance at the stroke of a pen. After saving up all their lives, how on earth could people be trusted to spend their own money wisely?

Could the passion for patronising have leaked into advertising this week too? The papers and 24-hour news stations are full of campaigners calling for fast food adverts to be banned until after 9 pm so children are not exposed. It has not been vocalised publicly -- but whenever this happens, marketers and advertisers will wonder if their restaurant and supermarket clients could go the way of tobacco and receive tighter restriction or even, ultimately, an outright ban.

I don't think so, and here's why. The country is moving away from the big state mentality to adopt that wonderful thing our parents used to exercise: taking personal responsibility. That -- and the very simple fact that although junk food is obviously bad for you, there is normally a safe limit. It's not like smoking, where no exposure is safe. A little of what you fancy may well do you good, but doctors warn, just don't make it a regular thing. While this undoubtedly leaves much room for improved labelling, particularly on takeaway meals, the elephant in the room is that people can enjoy the occasional pizza or hamburger without having to be crane-lifted out of their home.

So there will be a lot of noise, but ultimately marketers and advertisers need to be in tune with the common consensus and this is swinging towards parents telling their children they can't have a meal they consider unhealthy and people, in general, taking responsibility for what they put in their mouths.

Advertisers and marketers ultimately give people a mirror of themselves and the simple truth is that just as a comedian once quipped, nobody ever came home from the pub dying for an apple. A well-known professor, a household name in television circles, once joked with me that mankind's problem is that fatty foods just taste too nice for a body that still thinks its next meal might take a lot of running around the Savannah to find, so best stock up while we can.

So there will be a lot of noise, but ultimately the move towards personal responsibility will prevail.
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