England is facing an obesity epidemic.
One third of children are overweight when they leave primary school. Overweight children are more likely to become overweight adults, making them more prone to a range of diseases including heart disease, some cancers and Type 2 diabetes.
Change4Life was created by Public Health England to help prevent childhood obesity across England.
One of the key drivers of childhood obesity is over-consumption of sugar, with the average child consuming three times their recommended daily allowance. In fact, most 4-to-10-year-olds consume 22kg of added sugar a year - the equivalent of 15 sugar cubes a day.
If we are to beat childhood obesity we need to drastically cut down the volume of sugar our children are consuming.
Children’s diets are controlled by their parents, so the challenge for Change4Life was to help parents cut sugar from her family’s diet by making better food choices. Media interest in sugar had made parents more aware of how important it is to limit the amount of sugar their children consume (with 90% agreeing it’s important in pre-campaign tracking)*.
But behaviour wasn’t changing.
For all the headlines, column inches, TV programmes and previous campaigns, the volume of sugar purchased in the average shopping basket had only seen a negligible reduction (down 0.4% 2012-2015).
While parents knew a high sugar diet was bad for their children, our research showed that they didn’t realise how sugary some foods and drinks were, meaning they didn’t know how to cut down.
Our communications challenge was to reveal the surprising amount of sugar in the food and drink parents often gave their children, and prompt them to take action to reduce it. This wouldn’t be easy, most food and drink products already carried sugar content labelling, so it was clear that raising awareness alone wouldn’t solve this problem.
Firstly, we needed to help parents better understand the sugar in their own child’s diet and start to think about cutting down:Attitudinal KPIs
• Educate families on the levels of sugar in the products they buy
• Prompt the majority of parents (60%) to think about cutting down on sugar from their family’s diet
We already knew that attitude change alone wouldn’t shift purchasing, we needed parents to actually take a tangible action at scale:
• Motivate at least 1,000,000 parents to take the first step to cutting sugar in their families diet
Lastly, given the shift in attitudes and mass involvement, we wanted evidence that the campaign could change shopping behaviour
• Prompt at least 20% of parents to cut sugar from their families diet
Analysis of parents’ media consumption unlocked the strategy. We noticed that parents now spend more time with their mobile phone than any other media, with 83% agreeing that the first place they look for information is on their mobile and over 80% regularly downloading apps. Mobile offered not only audience reach but also the utility to interact with any food and drink product. We briefed not an advertising idea but a mobile utility that would empower parents by visualising the sugar in their child’s food and drink.
In a first for public health marketing globally, we’d focus the entire campaign on the media idea, a mobile utility, designed specifically to help parents visualise the volume of sugar in their family’s food and drink.
Marketing would create and design the utility based on the research and insights we’d uncovered.
We’d move from running messages about food facts to launching a new mobile product – the world’s first app that visualizes the amount of sugar in food and drink products - the Sugar Smart app.
The app visualised the sugar by a simple barcode scan by using data from a bespoke comprehensive database of over 130,000 food and drink products.
The role of the advertising would be to launch the Sugar Smart app.
The entire campaign was built around the app. All activity directed people to the app by interrupting sugar purchase and consumption across our audience’s daily lives.
The Sugar Smart mobile app campaign reached a scale never seen before in public health marketing.
The app was central to the campaigns success helping over two million parents take action on sugar
- Six times more parents took action vs. the previous Change4Life sugar campaign the year before, with no additional budget.
- Over 2,000,000 downloaded the Sugar Smart app, propelling it to the top of the free App download charts across launch week on IOS & Android (vs. 1 million KPI)
- Over 14,000,000 products have been scanned, with 87% of parents surprised by the sugar it revealed
The app got the nation’s attention
- The app captured the imagination of the nation, being covered in over 900 pieces of PR across all major news outlets including BBC, ITV and Sky News, generating over 160,000,000 earned impacts
More parents started to think about cutting the sugar
- 79% of parents started thinking about how they could cut sugar from their family’s diet due to the campaign (vs. 60% KPI)
- 88% believed that most children consume more sugar than is good for them (up from 83% pre-campaign)
But most importantly, we helped parents cut sugar from their family’s diet
- An incredible 81% of parents who used the app stated they had reduced the sugar their children consume
- 30% of all parents stated they reduced the sugar their children consume because of the campaign (vs. 20% KPI)
- DunnHumby test and control analysis showed that Tesco stores with Sugar Smart activity saw statistically significant drops in sales for sugary cereal (-4%) and high sugar drinks (-3%), while sales of low sugar drinks increased by 6%.
The audience focus for Change4Life is C2DE parents of primary school age children (5-11 years old). There are a number of reasons for this: Less affluent families have the greatest prevalence of obesity and are more likely to develop life-threatening diseases. They are predominantly disengaged with their health with cost/convenience often being the strongest driver of their family’s diet rather than health.
While our audience understood the importance of limiting sugar in their child’s diet, they didn’t always understand which food or drinks were sugary or how much sugar they really contained, meaning they tended to under-estimated how much sugar their child was eating.
Focus groups with parents highlighted the holes in their knowledge, some parents discussed lemonade as one of their child’s five a day, presuming it didn’t include any sugar because it was fruit-based, while others believed ice-cream and yoghurts were also sugar-free.
Quantitative research evidenced why this was the case. Although the majority of people can understand nutritional labelling when prompted, few look at it spontaneously. Only 27% of people in the UK look at nutritional information on food and drink – not surprising when the average food product is only handled for 35 seconds.
Shopping and consumption are just too quick, too habitual and too unconscious to spark consideration of sugar volume.
The campaign needed to make sugar content a conscious consideration.
The breakthrough insight came from an academic paper which evidenced that visualising the volume of sugar in products as sugar cubes helps to reduce the attraction and selection of those products*.
If we could find a way to visualise the sugar in food and drink as sugar cubes, we’d have a much better chance of driving understanding and ultimately changing behaviour.
We realised this couldn’t be a straightforward information campaign, simply revealing the sugar content of a few hero products in advertising wouldn’t help parents when they habitually buy thousands of different food and drink products a week.
We needed something all-encompassing which could interrupt the shopping journey and visualise the sugar in thousands of products in an instant, wherever and whenever parents needed it.
Most importantly we needed something that would be entertaining rather than just educational; we were launching the campaign at the most crowded time of year for health content (early January) if we didn’t create something parents wanted to share we’d struggle to stand out in the noise.
The campaign came to life through three stages, alert, motivate and enable:
Firstly, through PR, social, partnerships and TV we alerted parents to the health harms of too much sugar and showcased the app as the solution.
Unlike most New Year health campaigns, we didn’t launch on New Year’s Day. Social listening showed the biggest day for behaviour change of the entire year is the first day back to work – not the 1st January as often presumed.
So we launched on Monday 4th January with a TV creative alerting parents to the unseen damage sugar can cause her children, and casting her as the ‘hero’, using the app to help her family cut their sugar intake.
The campaign became headline news, being covered on every major news show and outlet that day, each focusing on the app and the surprising amount of sugar it revealed in popular food and drink products.
We took the Sugar Smart app further into the community by garnering the support of 152 local authorities, 20 NGOs, 42 housing associations and 500 pharmacies; all alerting parents to the app through posters, online content and handouts.
Secondly, we motivated parents to download the app by visualising the volume of sugar in food and drink at key moments.
We synced our digital display activity with high sugar TV advertising in real time, so when a high sugar product advertised on TV, Sugar Smart dominated the second screen, promoting immediate response.
At point of sale, we used digital out of home screens outside major supermarkets to motivate parents to switch high sugar products in their shop and download the app.
We created a Sugar Smart roadshow showcasing the app to parents across 50 high footfall locations such as shopping centres, high streets and supermarkets.
Online we created a partnership with My Supermarket which allowed us to highlight the benefits of the app whilst revealing the volume of sugar in each product, and visualising the total sugar in the shopping basket at point of purchase.
Lastly, the Sugar Smart app enabled parents to take control of sugar, we drove cost efficient response through targeted digital display, search, app store optimisation and social. Users of the app were prompted to sign-up for eCRM support which offered parents discounts on healthier foods through partners.
Sorry, this entry appears to have no assets.
- Kate Frankum
- Zoe Richardson
Deputy Marketing Director
- Alexia Clifford
- Chris Mounsey-Thear
- Louise Rowcliffe
Head of Marketing
- Caroline Fox
Head of Planning
- Matthew Walmsley
Head of Strategy
- Pete Buckley
Senior Campaign Manager
- Alan Smith
- Rosie Strachan
- Public Health England
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