by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Marketing to kids

Oct 12 2007

Rep. Markey vs. junk food for kids

Representative Edward Markey (Dem-MA) is making trouble for food companies who market to kids. He wrote letters to a bunch of companies asking them to cease and desist using cartoon characters or marketing to kids under age 12. The results? Some said yes, some said no. Among the “no’s” are Dannon (so much for Stonyfield), Nestle (no relation), and Yum! This, in turn, has led to consternation in the food industry, with much concern that if companies don’t comply with such requests, they will leave the industry open to regulation. Marketing to kids is the food industry’s Achilles heel. When it comes to kids, companies cannot argue personal responsibility. It will be interesting to watch Markey on this one.

Oct 10 2007

Kid Power: How to market food and drinks to kids

Michele Simon (Appetite for Profit) reminds me that Kid Power is inviting everyone in the marketing-to-kids industry to attend its next conference–“Kids Food and Beverage 2008.” This is the group that teaches companies how to sell directly to children and gives prizes for companies that do that well. The website gives reasons why you must attend. Note that for this group, overweight, food allergies, digital technology, and a growing ethnic population create new marketing opportunities for the food and beverage industries.

Sep 14 2007

Burger King Joins the Group; Will Stop Marketing to Kids (Sort of)

The last holdout, Burger King, says it too will stop marketing the worst of its junk foods to kids. This means it will only advertise kids’ meals that meet these criteria:

  • No more than 560 calories per meal;
  • Less than 30 percent of calories from fat;
  • Less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat;
  • No added trans fats; and
  • No more than 10 percent of calories from added sugars.

It’s agreed to cut back on some other practices too. A big step forward? Will this do any good? Let’s wait and see?

Sep 4 2007

More Research on Marketing to Kids

Once researchers started to look, the results just pour in. Thanks to Margo Wootan of CSPI for send this new study from the journal, Pediatrics. It finds virtually all ads for food products on kids’ TV to be for the junkier ones. No surprise here; these are the profitable products. How many more of these studies do we need? Really, isn’t it high time for a few restrictions? How’s this for a starting position? No marketing of foods to kids. Period.

Sep 3 2007

FTC Wants Info From These Companies!

Margo Wootan from Center for Science in the Public Interest and Lori Dorfman from the Berkeley Media Studies Group send the latest request from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC is asking food companies to say how much money they spend on marketing to kids and for a bunch of other information. And now here is the list of companies that have to provide that information. What is so interesting about this list is that it is not only aimed at Kraft, PepsiCo, and other such makers of junk foods but also at Boskovich, Grimmway, and other vegetable companies that put SpongeBob SquarePants and other such cartoon characters on their product labels. It will be interesting to see how much money goes into marketing carrots as compared to breakfast cereals or junky snack foods. Stay tuned.

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.