OMA launches world-first policy to limit the public’s exposure to discretionary food and drinks

The out-of-home (OOH) industry has united through the Outdoor Media Association (OMA) to take a stand against obesity in Australia by reducing the public’s exposure to discretionary food and drinks.

The policy will see OOH signs within a 150 metre sightline of a school be restricted with what messaging they can carry in a bid to meet community expectations and support the government in helping Australians make healthier choices.

The outdoor industry has come together on a new world-first policy

OMA CEO Charmaine Moldrich told Mumbrella the policy isn’t about banning anything, it’s about changing the way products are advertised.

“[The outdoor industry] is an industry that’s genuinely interested in what we can do to make a difference and I think this policy is the start of something really important,” said Moldrich.

“One of the things the OOH industry has been exemplary in is working with the board to come up with community-based policy. About 12 years ago, we came up with our placement policy, that was a voluntary policy outside of the self-regulatory framework, because there were community concerns about alcohol advertising.

“This is all predicated on a sense that we’re in the public space and that’s a privilege that’s afforded to us, and therefore we should have our ear to the ground to community and public concerns and respond to them. This policy is the next part of that response.”

As well as reviewing the type of advertising that is placed around schools, the industry will also donate up to $3m each year to promote healthy diets and lifestyle choices on its signs. This was an important step, said Moldrich, to ensure the policy was not ‘tokenistic’.

“What we want to do with the $3m campaign is to see how we can positively affect change.

“We know this is a very complex issue, it’s not something where you can say ‘Oh we’ll do this and there will be a change’. It needs to be systematic, it needs to be ongoing. We’re a drop in the ocean, but we are taking that first step,” said Moldrich.

The policy features include:

  • Discretionary food and drink product advertising to be restricted from areas within 150m of a primary or secondary school in Australia.
  • Food and drink advertising to be based on Australian Dietary Guidelines and the Australian Health Star Rating system.
  • $3 million of advertising space across Australia every year donated to feature targeted advertising campaigns supporting healthy diet and lifestyle choices.
  • Full creative support from the OOH industry to create efficacious and meaningful campaigns that will reach the targeted audience.
  • Compliance monitoring of the national restrictions with annual reports provided to state and federal governments.
  • Annual meetings to be held with key industry stakeholders and health promotion experts to assess the implementation and efficacy of the restrictions and the educational programs.

According to the OMA, the 150m distance is based on the maximum viewing distance of signs. While talking about maximum distance, there are two concepts to at play: ‘readability’ and ‘visibility’. ‘Readability’ identifies the distance within which the advertisements are readable, while ‘visibility’ identifies the distance within which the images shown are able to attract the human eye’s attention, even if the images are not perfectly identifiable.

Both international and Australian research demonstrates that, even for the largest signs, the maximum distance for readability is 140m. Building a buffer zone around schools of 150m is the most effective way to ensure that signs are not legible from school grounds, the OMA said.

Moldrich said the outdoor industry is dedicated to doing what it can to give back

“Almost one in four children is overweight or obese and this complex problem requires a comprehensive set of policies and programs to help Australians lead healthier lives,” said Moldrich.

“The OOH industry is proud to take a leadership position with the world’s first industry-backed, national restriction policy for discretionary food on outdoor advertising. As experts in advertising, we want to use the power of OOH to make a real difference.”

The OMA has consulted with the Australian Food & Grocery Council (AFGC), the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA), the Cancer Council, Diabetes Australia and the Heart Foundation on the new policy.

John Broome, CEO of the AANA said: “Advocating high ethical and professional standards across Australia’s marketing community is at the centre of the AANA’s work and we support the Outdoor industry’s approach to discretionary food and drink advertising.”

The OOH industry also runs a number of community-based campaigns, including Look Up, a National Missing Persons Week campaign which has been ongoing for over a decade, and a two-year partnership with Drinkwise.

“One of the things we are also aware of in that community space, because we’ve been running these campaigns, is that that kind of behaviour or social; change is something that out of home does really well. We’ve been testing through our Drinkwise campaign and our Look Up campaign and what we’ve seen is a huge uplift of communities saying yes we saw it and yes we’re doing something about it,” said Moldrich.

The OMA National Health and Wellbeing Policy will come to effect on 1 July, 2020. Visit for the relevant materials and processes.


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