Jamie Oliver Gives Brands Advice and a Warning: Be Honest and Clear … Or Else

Unhealthy food is now killing more than starvation, chef says

Headshot of David Griner

CANNES, France—Chef and health advocate Jamie Oliver was clearly an audience favorite at the Cannes Lions, but that's not to say he only had kind words for the marketing industry.

Asked by moderator Richard Edelman for his advice to brands, Oliver was both succinct and firm.

"Be clear and be honest," Oliver told the packed crowd of Cannes Lions attendees. "It's OK to sell chocolate. Just be honest and clear. Beware very carefully of how you market to kids. Because we'll get you. We'll single you out, and we'll batter you."

For years, Oliver has been on a crusade to reverse the obesity epidemic among children in the U.S. and U.K., and he has consistently put much of the blame on sugary sodas, junk food and fast food. 

While he's optimistic about the role brands can play in improving public health, he also did not mince words when it comes to the harmful impact created by some parts of the food industry.

"The most effective way of killing people on this planet right now is not terrorism as we know it. It's really bad food and no access to choice," Oliver said.

"There are lots of big businesses that have been part of the problem," he said. "There's no way the sugary drink industry can say: 'It's nothing to do with me. It's just choice.' The single largest source of sugar is sugary sweetened drinks, and the biggest growing part of our NHS in Britain is Type 2 diabetes."

His popular Food Tube channel on YouTube has more than 1.6 million subscribers, but Oliver won't accept advertising from any brand he considers junk food.

At the same time, though, Oliver sees the value in partnering with brand marketers and helping them become a force for positive change.

"Education is so exciting, and technology is so exciting, and brands' ability to contribute and leverage and play a part in this is so exciting," he said.

The stakes on getting more brands and marketers involved in his campaign are incredibly high, Oliver told the crowd.

"Last year was the first moment in time when more people died from eating too much of the wrong shit than not having access to food. This is a new thing, and it's a bad thing," he said.

"But I work in both parts of the world. So how do I do my job in a country that has been famed for poverty and starvataion and then one eating too much of the wrong crap? Education is absolutely essential. The best food I've ever eaten in my life has come from the poorest communities. It's got nothing to do with money. It's just education."

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."
Publish date: June 23, 2015 https://dev.adweek.com/brand-marketing/jamie-oliver-gives-brands-advice-and-warning-be-honest-and-clear-or-else-165512/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT