Earned media in the light of advertisement restrictions

Online adverts for so called ‘junk food’ are now banned in the UK under a new law announced in May. Any advertisement of discounted deals for unhealthy foods will also be banned, while people will be rewarded with shopping vouchers for losing weight and exercising under an incentive scheme to encourage healthier living in the UK.

The legislation that has been introduced restricts retailer’s promotions for any food and drink products that are deemed to be high in sugar, salt and fat from April 2022 before the 9pm watershed. Paid for adverts on sites including Facebook and Google by big brands will also be banned. However, the retailers are allowed to promote their products on their own blogs, websites, and social media channels.

The introduction to this new law is to help tackle childhood obesity within the UK and is back by health campaigners. So, what does this mean for the industry, and their communications strategies?

The importance of earned media

Earned media is any piece of unpaid publicity about your brand or business which is published externally to your own channels. It has no direct cost associated with it accept time and effort to build a media relationship and produce content and material through a robust PR strategy. An important element to any communications mix is your earned media, and that has never been more apparent than to those brands who will be affected by the legislative food advertising changes.

Clever, creative activations and campaigns are going to be an effective part of any strategy to drive conversation and awareness for FMCG businesses. Reliance on word of mouth of customer review will need to be amplified as many of these businesses are now restricted to promoting their products after 9pm on digital, social media and television reducing their potential daily reach significantly.

An earned media strategy allows you to build credibility, consumer trust, brand awareness and essentially generate leads. Interestingly, earned media has not been used to its full extent simply because companies think that measuring its real ROI is somewhat complicated. Fortunately, that is no longer the case. Tracking website referrals, media mentions using social listening tools and Google Analytics allow you to measure impact and results easily. Share of voice which compares your media mentions to your competitors and the quality of those mentions can equally be useful for acquiring earned media insights.

Earned Vs Paid

For any business to be successful, their target audience needs to be aware of them. But more than that they need to be seen as a credible organisation and trustworthy – something you can’t purchase through an advert.

Online advertisement and PPC campaigns will certainly drive traffic, raise awareness, and elevate social channels. However, discussion, review, education, and an external source talking about your business is very valuable. Especially for any new product launches or services that you can’t direct adverts to, it is a great way of teasing a launch and letting your loyal customer base know about your latest news and updates within your organisation. A very useful tactic for any FMCG business that is now restricted by their paid strategy and wants to promote their upcoming product and production line.

Despite these exemptions being introduced across the industry, the Government’s own impact assessment report suggested that over a 25-year period the restrictions will cost broadcasters £1.5 billion, online platforms £3.5 billion, advertising agencies £550 million, and retailers and manufacturers of HFSS products will see their profits reduced by £659 million. It will be interesting to see how businesses will reinvest this advertising spend and diversify their strategies over the next few years.

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