by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Marketing to kids

Aug 27 2007

Marketing to Kids: Upfront Video

I’m a long time subscriber to Advertising Age, which is just a great source of information about the amounts of money food companies spend on marketing in general and to kids in particular. Thanks to Michele Simon, author of Appetite for Profit, for sending me a link to an Advertising Age video on how food marketers are adapting to their recent promises to stop advertising junk foods directly to kids. Not to worry. They have ways.

Aug 14 2007

More on Kids’ Preference for McDonald’s

The New York Times has just caught up with the study demonstrating that 3 to 5 year old kids prefer foods in McDonald’s wrappers even when foods in plain wrappers also come from McDonald’s (see my previous post on McDonald’s). Advertising Age, however, has quite another interpretation of this research: bad science (“small sample, obvious agenda”). My favorite part of the Advertising Age story is the advice given to McDonald’s by an expert in damage control. “One good way to handle it, he said, would be to plant some experts or scientists on TV to debunk the study, rather than offer up McDonald’s own executives.”

Right–let’s spin the best science money can buy. Give McDonald’s credit for handling this “crisis” without resorting to such tactics.

Aug 13 2007

FTC Demands Company Info on Marketing to Kids

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency that regulates food advertising, has just ordered a large group of food companies that make junk foods targeted to children to reveal how much money they are spending on advertising each of their products in general and to children, minorities, and other target groups. The FTC wants specific information about expenditures on marketing through traditional as well as modern kid-friendly channels: TV, radio, and print media, but also company-sponsored and other Internet sites, movie theaters, video games, in-store promotions, premium distributions, product placements, character licensing, sports sponsorships, word-of-mouth and “viral” campaigns, in-school, celebrity endorsements, and philanthropy, among others.

This is an astonishing action by the FTC, an agency that usually promotes food marketing and protects companies’ rights to do so. The last time the FTC tried to do something about the marketing of junk foods to kids–just on television–was in 1979. Then, Congress intervened, fired the head of the FTC, and passed a law allowing such marketing to continue. Well, times have changed in the intervening decades. Even little kids are now overweight and developing type 2 diabetes, reason enough to try to address the problem. At the end of 2005, the Institute of Medicine’s committee examining food marketing to kids complained that companies would not give it “proprietary” information about advertising expenditures or sales. So let’s give the FTC lots of credit for demanding this information and for considering how to put some curbs on the unchecked greed of companies pushing junk foods to kids.

Aug 7 2007

If a Food Says McDonald’s, it Tastes Better?

Give kids identical foods, some in McDonald’s wrappers, some not, and ask the kids which ones they like best. Big surprise: they like the foods labeled McDonald’s much better, especially if they often eat at McDonald’s or watch a lot of television.   And these were little kids–aged 3 to 5.  That’s the gist of a new study from the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a journal not on my usual reading list so I am indebted to the UC Berkeley Center for Family and Community Health for sending it to me. Actually, the effect of branding on kids’ taste preferences is so easy to demonstrate that even kids can prove it. In my book Food Politics, I quote a science fair project done by a couple of 13-year-olds in Portland, OR who did the same experiment with their classmates’ soda preferences. This is why companies are so eager to put their brand in every possible place where kids can see it. It makes kids want to eat brand-named foods (what I call “kids’ foods”) and not want to eat foods without brands. As for adults….?

Aug 6 2007

Using the Law to Counter Obesity

The Spring 2007 issue of the Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics and the April 2007 issue of the Maryland Law Journal both have collections of excellent articles on childhood obesity. The articles talk about how to use laws and regulations to improve school food and restrict marketing of junk food to children, among other actions. Tired of waiting for food companies to make voluntary improvements? These articles provide lots of good ideas for encouraging companies to do what they promise.

Aug 3 2007

Simpsons Movie or Burger King ad?

I’m confused. Is Simpsons a movie or a lengthy ad for Burger King? And is this about marketing to children or what? You can watch the ads and decide for yourself.

Jul 18 2007

Food Companies Promise to Stop Marketing Junk Foods to Kids

A bunch of food companies promised today to stop marketing the worst of their junk foods directly to kids. I wish I could be more optimistic about what seem like amazingly generous pledges by these 11 companies. Will they really stop marketing junk food directly to young children? Remember: these are the very same companies that formed an alliance just a couple of years ago to protect their First Amendment rights to market junk foods to kids. So the companies are not making these promises as acts of altruism. They are forced to do this by public concerns about their role in promoting childhood obesity (for which there is much evidence and by fear of regulation if they don’t. Unfortunately, the history of what companies promise and what they actually do about marketing to kids is not reassuring. Kraft and McDonald’s, for example, have made similar promises in the past. Yes, they fulfilled some of the promises, but mostly they appear to be conducting business very much as usual. Food companies, of course, are caught in an impossible dilemma: even if they want to do the right thing, they can’t if it means losing sales. Maybe—just maybe—the companies will behave better because so many are joined in the effort. But who will hold them accountable? I say, let’s give them six months and see if they do what they say.

Jul 16 2007

McDonald’s Burger Con

Lori Dorfman, of the Berkeley Media Studies Group, says to take a look at McDonald’s new burger promotion. Marketing directly to kids? You decide. In the meantime, the Berkeley Group has great materials on food marketing to children and what to do about it.