More than 80 health groups, doctors, and nutritionists (including me) just sent a letter urging Nickelodeon and its parent company, Viacom, to adopt stricter standards for its advertisers to children.
Marketing to children is the frontier of healthy eating efforts. As the Institute of Medicine reported in 2005, marketing directed at children is demonstrably effective at getting kids to want products, pester their parents for them, and believe that snacks, fast food, and sodas are “kids’ food” and what they are supposed to be eating.
Efforts to get food companies to cease and desist targeting kids for ads run up against business imperatives to expand sales and report growth to Wall Street every quarter.
For some years now, the kids’ TV station Nickelodeon has been struggling to find an economically viable way to restrict marketing of the worst products. But if Nickelodeon establishes commonly accepted nutrition standards for products it permits to be advertised, those standards will exclude most advertisers. “Economically viable” is what this is about.
This is precisely the same dilemma caused by the ill-fated Interagency Working Group report earlier this year. I thought its proposed standards were too generous. Food companies thought they were too restrictive. The government backed off.
Now Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is trying another method. It organized a letter-writing campaign to press Nickelodeon to adopt nutrition standards like those adopted by Disney a few months ago.
If you think this is a good idea, you too can sign onto the campaign right here.
Short of regulation, public pressure might be just what’s needed to encourage Nickelodeon—and food companies—to stop marketing junk foods to kids.