This presentation was given at the 2021 ESRC DTP Cambridge Conference by Hannah Forde, PhD candidate with the Centre for Diet and Activity Research University of Cambridge.
The abstract for this presentation is as follows:
Each year in the UK, millions of pounds are spent marketing food and drinks to encourage product sales. As unhealthy products are more often the subject of marketing, and children and low-income populations more commonly targeted by it, marketing contributes to non-communicable diseases and health inequalities.
Regulating marketing may prove an effective public health strategy, but as much of a companies’ marketing decision-making is commercially sensitive, little data are publicly available to inform the design of regulation. Another public health measure, the UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy, was introduced in 2018 and charges manufacturers in tiers depending on the sugar content of their drinks, with the intention of reducing the consumption of sugary drinks. However, it was predicted that the health benefits of the Levy would be undermined if the soft drinks industry responded with aggressive marketing of sugary drinks.
In this study, we explored changes in advertising expenditure of market-leading soft drink companies following the announcement and introduction of the UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy. We used data from Nielsen, a market research agency who estimate the amount spent on different forms of advertisements by assigning values based on known market rates. We present the results of controlled interrupted time series analyses across more than 5 years of data that assess for changes in expenditure overall, and variations by type of advertisement. We also discuss the methodological benefits and flaws of using data sources like Nielsen’s that estimate the scale of industry activity, to inform public health regulation.