by Marion Nestle
Oct 19 2011

Consumer groups complain to FTC about PepsiCo’s digital marketing to kids

This morning, the Center for Digital Democracy announced that consumer groups have filed a complaint (and see the appendices) with the Federal Trade Commission against PepsiCo.

Why?  Because of the ways PepsiCo uses digital marketing techniques to push its products to children and adolescents.

These include:

  • Disguising marketing as video games, concerts, and other “immersive” experiences
  • Claiming to protect teen privacy while collecting a wide range of personal information
  • Using viral techniques that violate FTC guidelines

The report points to Pepsi’s Hotel 626 video game as a particularly egregious example.

Also this morning, Public Health Law & Policy released a comprehensive report on the kinds of digital marketing tactics that are now used routinely by fast food, snack food, and soft drink companies. The report identifies specific marketing campaigns from PepsiCo, McDonald’s, and others that exploit kids’ use of digital media.

I can’t wait to see what the FTC does with this.

In the meantime, here’s Michele Simon’s enlightening report on what it’s like to play Hotel 626.

And Lori Dorfman of the Berkeley Media Studies Group sends these case studies on digital marketing to kids:


  • I’ve been tracking many of the junk food purveyors on Facebook. It’s amazing to see 1) the number of fans they have 2) the amount of comments and “likes” they receive for their postings.

    Here’s a sampling from Reese’s, Oreo, and McDonald’s …

  • Anthro

    If we can ban cigarette advertising, why can’t we ban advertising to children (at least on television and internet)? None of the personal freedom arguments apply to children. What kind of country cannot find the political will to act in the best interests of children over the profits or corporations and shareholders? Other countries have taken action and their economies have not collapsed.