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How PR will help junk food brands remain relevant

So, the government wants us all eating less and moving more to get the country in the best shape to tackle the anticipated recurring waves of Covid, and reduce future pressure on the NHS.

A major part of Boris Johnson’s strategy is a ban on junk food advertising before 9pm – a move which is already being criticised by broadcasters and an advertising industry reeling from all the lost revenues of the pandemic.*

So where does that leave brands who may have earmarked large budgets on above the line creative campaigns but now need to reconsider how they amplify their brand messages in different ways?

What’s your purpose?

The answer lies in developing a marketing mix of PR, brand partnerships and social-led content to help brands find their purpose in this new landscape.

It is clear that PR’s role in crafting authentic and trusted partnerships and content is key to keeping those brands affected by the ban visible with their audiences, but also in tune with the new, health focused mood.

For many years now, McDonald’s has been a high profile supporter of community football in the UK, with a stated commitment to provide free football provision to children of all ages and abilities.

This has grown in scope to cover partnerships with all UK national football associations, donations of equipment to grassroots clubs, giveaways of footballs, awards, festivals and more. All with the simple aim of keeping children active.

This kind of authentic and long-lasting association is what is required now from any brands who find themselves deprived of TV airtime that they had previously depended on.

Right message, right time and right platform

Gaining insights into the changing public mood will help brands understand how best to talk to their audience now, the right territories to occupy and also where to direct support and partnership funds.

For instance, this could be into cycling (a particular focus of conversation at present), individual sports, team sports, making equipment or facilities more accessible and affordable across the country – anything that opens up fitness to more of the population and demonstrates understanding of changing public mood.

Starting with the data, quant and qual research will reveal the areas that are right to move into, and a good agency partner will undertake this preliminary work, then analyse the results as we arrive at conclusions and recommendations together. They will also work as an extension of an in-house team to scope the opportunities that are best to pursue for the brand.

Once the right strategy has been formulated, amplification of news, case studies and content across PR and social channels is what will deliver mass reach and consideration – the prime drivers of a traditional ATL media campaign.

The right spokespeople, the right content, being delivered at the right time to the right audiences is a precision execution that the modern PR agency specialises in. The results speak for themselves too. In an age of ever more savvy consumers, it is the trusted medium of earned media and the peer-to-peer recommendation of those with influence on social media that can really move the needle.

There is no sense from the government or public that we want any of our favourite household name brands that might fall foul of the new pre-9pm ad ban rules to disappear. So, to remain relevant and in tune with the changing mood, it is up to these brands to find their place all over again.

*According to trade title Marketing Week, estimates are that the proposals could cost British broadcasters more than £200m, with ITV accounting for half of this total alone. The advertisers also argue that there are already a raft of self-regulatory measures in place to stop ads for junk foods targeting children.


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