Digital Marketing: civil society organisations | World Obesity Federation

Digital Marketing: civil society organisations

Obesity Health Alliance

The goal of the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) is to prevent obesity-related ill-health by addressing the influences that lead to excess bodyweight throughout life. Formed in 2015, OHA supports policy-making to tackle the social, economic and cultural factors that contribute to obesity and inequalities in health caused by obesity. It is a coalition of over 30 charities, medical royal colleges and campaign groups who have joined together to fight obesity.

Policy extract: The Obesity Health Alliance commissioned the University of Liverpool to analyse the adverts shown during some of the TV shows popular with children in February 2017 to examine how many HFSS adverts children are exposed to during the programmes they watch most. See more

American Heart Association

The American Heart Association has grown into the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer worldwide, and stroke ranks second globally. Even when those conditions don’t result in death, they cause disability and diminish quality of life. We want to see a world free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Policy extract: The American Heart Association supports policy change that addresses the following efforts to limit the marketing and advertising of low-nutrient, high calorie foods and beverages to U.S. children. See more

AHA position: The AHA supports measures that restrict food advertising and marketing to children including, but not limited to allowing only healthy foods to be marketed and advertised to children, discouraging the product placement of food brands in multiple media technologies, eliminating the use of toys in unhealthy kids’ restaurant meals, using licensed characters on only healthy foods, and not allowing unhealthy food and beverage advertising and marketing in schools, on school buses, or on educational materials. The intended effect of advocating for these positions is two-fold: to improve children’s dietary behaviours by reducing the consumption of low-nutrient, high-calorie foods, while promoting consumption of healthy food and beverages. See more.

AHA position: The AHA sees no ethical, political, scientific, or social justification for marketing and advertising low-nutrient, high-calorie foods to children and supports efforts to diminish this practice in the United States. Typically, researchers define children as infants (birth to less than 2), preschool (ages 2- 5), school age (ages 6-11), and adolescents (ages 12-17). This policy statement particularly relates to children 12 and under who are developmentally less able to comprehend the intent of marketing and advertising strategies, but does not preclude the need to curb strategies targeted at adolescents as well. See more.

Consumers International

Consumers International is the membership organisation for consumer groups around the world. We believe in a world where everyone has access to safe and sustainable goods and services. We bring together over 200 member organisations in more than 100 countries to empower and champion the rights of consumers everywhere. We are their voice in international policy-making forums and the global marketplace to ensure they are treated safely, fairly and honestly. We are resolutely independent, unconstrained by businesses or political parties. We work in partnership and exercise our influence with integrity, tenacity and passion to deliver tangible results.

Policy extract: This manual is designed to support governments, local governments and civil society in monitoring the exposure and power of marketing of foods to children. See more

Policy extract: This set of recommendations towards a Global Convention to protect and promote healthy diets has been developed to encourage policy makers to build on the work of the UN to combat obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). See more.


As a registered charity, Sustain is the alliance for better food and farming. It was formed by merging the National Food Alliance and Sustainable Agriculture Food and Environment (SAFE) Alliance. It advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity. It represents around 100 national public interest organisations working at international, national, regional and local level. (SAFE) Alliance, both of which had been established for over 10 years. As the biggest independent funder of heart and circulatory disease research in the UK, and one of the biggest in the world, the British Heart Foundation is a global leader. We are function over 1,000 critical research projects seeking to make breakthroughs across all aspects of heart and circulatory disease. Our mission is to win the fight against cardiovascular disease. Our vision is a world in which people do not die prematurely or suffer from cardiovascular disease.

Policy extract: The Children’s Food Campaign is calling for robust Government action to help parents and bring an end to this type of marketing of junk food to children. See more

Policy extract: This report proposes a regulatory system based on the principle that individuals and organisations must not act in a way where the purpose or effect is to promote an unhealthy food product to individuals under the age of 16. This report focuses on the influence of food promotion through a variety of media. See more

Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

Founded in 2005, the Rudd Centre for Food Policy & Obesity is a non-profit research and public policy organisation devoted to promoting solutions to childhood obesity, poor diet, and weight bias through research and policy. The Centre serves as a leading research institution and clearinghouse for resources that add to our understanding of the complex forces affecting how we eat, how we stigmatise people with obesity, and how we can change. Their mission is to promote solutions to childhood obesity, poor diet, and weight bias through research and policy.

Policy extract: The purpose of this report is to quantify improvements reported by cereal companies and the CFBAI. The findings in this report document cereal companies’ progress in contributing to critical public health objectives. See more.

Policy extract: Given the likely negative impact of food marketing on all children’s health, food and media companies should expand self-regulation to protect children through their most developmentally vulnerable period, at least until age 14. See more

Center for Science in the Public Interest

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a non-profit organisation based in Washington, D.C. Since 1971, CSPI has been working to improve the public’s health through its work on nutrition, food safety, and alcohol issues. CSPI’s Nutrition Policy Project works with concerned citizens, health professionals, government officials and other non-profit organisations to strengthen national, state, and local policies and programs to promote healthy eating and reduce obesity. Our goals are to help reduce the illnesses, disabilities, and deaths caused by diet- and obesity-related diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes. 

Policy extract: In the past few years, a number of food and entertainment companies have announced policies on food marketing to children independently or through the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). This report examines whether companies that market food to children have adopted a policy on marketing to children, and if so, the adequacy of that policy. See more

Policy extract: These Guidelines for Responsible Food Marketing to Children are food manufacturers, restaurants, supermarkets, television and radio stations, movie studios, magazines, public relations and advertising agencies, schools, toy and video game manufacturers, organisers of sporting or children’s events, and others who manufacture, sell, market, advertise, or otherwise promote food children. The Guidelines provide criteria for marketing food to children in a manner that does not undermine children’s diets or harm their health. See more

Cancer Research UK

Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. We support research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses. Today 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Our vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

Policy extract: This research – a UK-wide quantitative survey of 3,348 people aged 11-19 – evaluates whether there is a need for policy makers in 2018 to further regulate marketing. See more

International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO)

The International Association or the Study of Obesity (IASO) is an umbrella organisation for over 10,000 professional researchers and clinicians in over 50 national and regional obesity associations. IASO’s mission is to improve global health by promoting the understanding of obesity and weight-related diseases through scientific research and dialogue, whilst encouraging the development of effective policies for their prevention and management.

Policy extract: This document sets out a proposed approach for this set of recommendations in the form of an International Code of Marketing based on the experience of the membership of Consumers International and the International Obesity Task Force. See more

Irish Heart Foundation

We are leading the way in the fight against heart disease and stroke in Ireland. We campaign to influence government policy to improve care for patients and for real change for those affected by heart disease and stroke. As the national charity fighting heart disease and stroke, we have seen great achievements and success through our advocacy campaigns.

Policy extract: This study aimed to make essential first steps in identifying the digital food and drink marketing appealing to, or directed at, children and young people in Ireland. See more

Prevention Institute

Prevention Institute is a non-profit organisation that synthesises research and practice; develops prevention tools and frameworks; designs and guide inter-sectoral partnerships; and provides training, technical assistance, and strategy development to promote innovative community-oriented solutions, better government and business practices, and policy change.

Policy extract: The Prevention Institute examined whether the front-of-package labels on grocery store products marketed to children did promote foods that were healthful. After reviewing fifty-eight children’s food products containing front-of-package labels, we found that 84% were unhealthy, as they did not meet one or more nutrient criteria. See more

Childhood Obesity Foundation

The Childhood Obesity Foundation was founded in 2004 by a paediatrician and lawyer in British Columbia who wanted to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity in Canada. In 2006 the Childhood Obesity Foundation was granted charitable status.

Policy extract: What this policy consensus statement offers is the perspective of many major national health care professional and scientific organisations to guide Canadian governments and non-government organisations on actions that need to be taken to protect the health of our future generations, in part by restricting the adverse influence of marketing of foods & beverages high in fat, sugar or sodium to Canadian children and youth. See more

Obesity Policy Coalition

The Obesity Policy Coalition was formed in 2006 to respond to concerns regarding rates of overweight and obesity in Australia. It was established with the aim of influencing change in policy and regulation to support obesity prevention, particularly in Australian children. The broad objectives of the Obesity Policy Coalition are to identify, analyse and advocate for evidence-based policy and regulatory initiatives to reduce overweight and obesity, particularly in children, at a local, state and national level. 

Policy extract: There is substantial evidence that this advertising influences children’s food preferences and consumption, and is likely to contribute to overweight and obesity. Current regulations are ineffective for reducing children’s exposure to unhealthy food advertising. See more

Policy extract: This report by the Obesity Policy Coalition explores the limitations of the system in relation to the industry codes and their operation, highlighting: major loopholes, self-interest dictates, the fox is in charge of the hen house. See more

Cancer Council Australia

Cancer Council is the only charity in Australia to work across every area of every cancer, from research to prevention and support. We help people from the point of diagnosis through to treatment and survivorship.
Our vision: A cancer free future.
Our Mission: Lead a cohesive approach to reduce the impact of cancer. 

Policy extract: To better protect children from unhealthy food, Cancer Council recommends that Government develop a specific food marketing policy framework and embed this in statutory regulation. See more

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Kaiser is a non-profit organisation focusing on national health issues, as well as the U.S. role in global health policy. Unlike grant-making foundations, Kaiser develops and runs its own policy analysis, journalism and communication programs, sometimes in partnerships with major news organisations.

Policy extract: The purpose of this issue brief is to explore one other potential contributor to the rising rates of childhood obesity: children’s use of media. See more

Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.

The Better Business Bureau, founded in 1912, is a private, non-profit organisation whose self-described mission is to focus on advancing marketplace trust, consisting of 106 independently incorporated local Better Business Bureaus organisations in the United States and Canada, coordinated under the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Arlington, Virginia. 

Policy extract: The goal of this initiative is to use advertising to help promote healthy dietary choices and healthy lifestyles among American children. See more

World Cancer Research Fund International

We are a not-for-profit organisation that leads & unifies a network of cancer prevention charities with a global reach. Since it started in 1982, the World Cancer Research Fund network has been a pioneer in research and health information on the link between food, nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer. Our vision is to live in a world where not one develops a preventable cancer.

Policy extract: We developed the NOURISHING framework to highlight where governments need to take action to promote healthy diets and reduce overweight and obesity. Look at the letter R in the NOURISHING database.

Policy extract: This is the third report in the WCRF International Building Momentum series, providing advice primarily to policymakers on designing and implementing nutrition policies in the face of various challenges including lack of political will and food and beverage industry interference. The focus of this report is on protecting children and adolescents (for conciseness, referred to throughout this report as children) from the impact of marketing through limiting the exposure to and power of marketing of HFSS food and non-alcoholic beverages through national-level marketing restrictions. See more

Cancer Council NSW

We are Australia’s leading cancer charity, uniting the community, providing support, investing in research and saving lives. Our values influence the work that we do, and the way we work with our colleagues and with our community.

Policy extract: This report provides an overview of the research into the nature and extent of food marketing to children and its impact on children’s food preferences, their diet and their health. The report also outlines current mandatory, co-regulatory and voluntary approaches in Australia and around the world to reduce food marketing to children and makes a series of recommendations to improve regulation and more effectively reduce children’s exposure to the unhealthy influence of food marketing. See more

Corporate Accountability International

Corporate Accountability is a non-profit organisation founded in 1977. Corporate Accountability stops transnational corporations from devastating democracy, trampling human rights, and destroying our planet. We are building a world rooted in justice where corporations answer to people, not the other way around – a world where every person has access to clean water, healthy food, a safe place to live, and the opportunity to reach their full human potential.

Policy extract: In this guide, we describe and analyse strategies communities can use to improve the health of children and families by reducing the influence of food and beverage corporations on nutrition. See more.  

Civil society organisations media quotes 

“It’s been 10 years since the first, and only, TV junk marketing regulations were introduced by Ofcom and they’re seriously out of date. Ofcom must stop junk food adverts being shown during programmes that are popular with young people, such as talent shows and football matches, where there’s currently no regulation.” Dr Jyotsana Vohra, Head of the Policy Research Centre for Prveention at Cancer Research UK

“Young people from the most deprived communities already have the odds stacked against them when it comes to obesity rates and these adverts are fuelling what is already a problem spiralling out of control.” “In addition, rules should be extended to cover sponsorship of sports and family attractions and marketing communications in schools.”  Caroline Cerny, Obesity Health Alliance

“We need to see bans on advertising go further, as they currently do not manage exposure to these adverts during popular family programmes such as the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent” Jenny Rosborough, campaign manager at Action on Sugar

“We allow companies into our homes to manipulate children to want food that will make them sick” Margo Wootan, Center for Science in the Public Interest

“The Federal Government’s efforts to promote healthy lifestyle messages can’t compete with the food industry, when the government is outspent six to one on marketing.” Kathy Chapman, nutritionist and Chair of Coalition on Food Advertising to Children

“The number of television adverts that promote unhealthy foods to children show that targeted intervention is required. We strongly recommend that advertising to young children; and the advertising of junk foods, is banned. Our research shows this would have strong support from parents.” Mary MacLead, Chieft Executive of the National Family and Parenting Institute

“Nickelodeon and Kellogg engage in business practices that literally sicken our children. Their marketing tactics are designed to convince kids that everything they hear from their parents about food is wrong. It’s a multimedia brainwashing and re-education campaign – and a disease-promoting one at that. And parents are fed up.” Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest

“The thrust of Nickelodeon’s and Kellogg’s likely defence will be to blame parents, since, after all, parents ultimately are responsible for their kid’s diets. But then again, Kellogg and Nick aren’t directing their marketing messages at parents; they’re going right behind parents’ backs. Parents are ultimately responsible for making sure their young kids don’t get hit by cars. But if someone’s recklessly driving around your neighbourhood at 80 miles an hour, you’re going to want to stop them.” Steve Gardner, Litigation Director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest

“The societal pressures on children to consume food which has little nutritional value is extreme.” “There needs to be far greater commitment by governments to protect children.” “It’s very questionable whether the lives of children should be commercialised in the way they are – this is only a phenomenon of the last 20 years, and it’s contrary to every civilisation’s understanding of how to nurture children.” Professor Philip James, Chairman at the International Obesity Task Force

“This strategy was meant ot be published a year ago, we’ve had a year of delays, and now it has been watered-down to a plan that doesn’t even include marketing restrictions.” “This is a truly shocking abdication of the government’s duties to secure the health and future of the next generation.” Malcolm Clarck, Children's Food Campaign

Lapidus said that McDonald’s “appears hell bent on preventing communities from securing health protections against your abusive practices.” Addressing McDonald’s CEO, she asked “Mr. Skinner, when will McDonald’s stop aggressively interfering in public health policy and opposing democratic efforts to create a healthier food environment, free of junk food marketing, for our children and future generations?”  Deborah Lapidus, Corporate Accountability International

“But unlike all the junk food and confectionery we are relentlessly sold every day, our delicious vegetables are not ‘owned’ by massive global brands so they don’t get the marketing and advertising clout they deserve.” Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef and campaigner at the Peas Please Initiative

“The exposure of TV adverts is shown to push the youth towards consuming those foods that are higher in fats and sugars and salts.” “We feel that the 9pm watershed would make a good indent in the obesity rate and help us to progress against the epidemic.” Dr Jyotsana Vohra, Head of the Policy Research Centre for Prveention at Cancer Research UK

“Further restrictions on the advertising of HFSS [high in fat, salt or sugar] food and drink are at odds with research that shows obesity among young people varies significantly across the UK, correlating strongly to areas with increased deprivation. This suggests that effective action must be targeted at local level and that a blanket nationwide ban is not the answer. Such a ban, if implemented, could have damaging implications for the economy and jobs.” Spokesperson for Advertising Association

“Cancer Research UK wants to see a ban on junk food TV adverts before 9PM in the upcoming obesity strategy so that more young people can be protected from the marketing tactics used by the food industry. And we believe the government should act on this.” Alison Cox, Director of cancer prevention at Cancer Research UK

“These rules represent a significant first step in ensuring children are protected from excessive advertising in the digital age.” Patti Miller, Vice-President at Children Now

“The health of Australia’s children, now and into the future, is of paramount importance. Food advertising influences what food children want, ask for, and eat. Combatting obesity is a shared responsibility. The broadcast industry and broadcast regulatory authorities have a significant role to play in these efforts.” Dr Rosanna Capolingua, President of the Australia Medical Association

“Our understanding is that the Department of Health supported some very tough restrictions on junk food advertising and marketing, but lost the Whitehall battle to keep them in the obesity strategy.”  Richard Watts, coordinator at the Children's Food Campaign

“In any other sphere of American life it would be considered creepy and predatory for adults to propose commercial transactions to toddlers and young children. Yet companies like Kellogg, Nickelodeon, and others have been doing it with impunity, and government has done nothing for decades. This litigation is truly a last resort – and vitally important to children’s health.” Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest

“For over thirty years, public health advocates have urged companies to stop marketing junk food to children. Even as rates of childhood obesity have soared, neither Viacom nor Kellogg has listened. We can no longer stand by as our children’s health is sacrificed for corporate profits.” Susan Linn, co-founder of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

“When children read books or play games they are at their most receptive to learning and suggestion. It’s an advertiser’s dream situation. By linking food brands to games and books, companies get children to have fun, but the children are also advertising fatty, salty and sugary products to themselves. The companies hope children will build up positive – even lifelong – associations with the food brands.” Kath Dalmeny, author of the Food Magazine Report 

“It was set to be one of the most important health initiatives of our time, but look at the words used – ‘should, might, we encourage’ – too much of it is voluntary, suggestive, where are the mandatory points? Where are the actions on the irresponsible advertising targeted at our children, and the restrictions on junk food promotions?” Jamie Oliver

“Over time, marketing creates an image of what is included in a normal healthy diet.” “If that image includes less fast food, that is a good thing and could set up more healthy eating habits.” Claire Hughes, Nutrition Programme Manager at Cancer Council

“We are working with businesses to help make the food environment healthier but advertising plays a vital role. At the moment advertising is skewed towards junk food and we need a more balanced playing field to help support us all, and particularly children, to eat more veg.” Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef and campaigner at the Peas Please Initiative