FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 23, 2007
Marketers limit 'junk food' commercials aimed at kids
Food companies also will alter print and online pitches to kids. In addition to snacks and beverages, ask pupils what other products and services are advertised to them. Have them find and comment on examples in the newspaper or on its website.
Start a discussion of how consumers should evaluate ads. Challenge class members to distinguish between those with useful information and others that seem to appeal only to emotions or impulses.
While TV ads for kids' foods or diversions usually appear on entertainment shows, those in newspapers run alongside news and information. See if students can find nutrition news, health tips or other fitness advice.
In a step toward improving the diets of America's youngest consumers, 11 big food companies will stop advertising certain cereals, snacks and other items on children's TV unless they can lower the products' sugar, fat and calories. The voluntary move is aimed at heading off a government crackdown prompted partly by an increase in childhood obesity (abnormally high weight).
Affected products include Trix, Cap'n Crunch, Foot Loops and Apple Jacks cereal, as well as Pop-Tarts and Bubblicious gum. If they can't change the ingredients to meet nutrition guidelines, food makers will replace ads for so-called junk foods with spots for healthier alternatives. 'We want to help families make good choices,' said an executive at General Mills, a major cereal brand. Another company, McDonald's, said its national kids' ads will feature only balanced meals of 600 calories or less.
Advertisers spend an estimated $900 million each year to influence children under 12 watching Nickelodeon, ABC Family, the Disney Channel, Cartoon Network and other channels. The voluntary limits exclude ads on 'family entertainment,' such as American Idol or the Animal Planet and National Geographic cable networks.
Food executive says: 'Food advertisers can and should be part of the solution, and this is an important step forward by our industry." -- David Mackay, president and chief executive officer of Kellogg Company.
Critic says: 'This is great public relations for the companies, but it doesn't go nearly far enough. It is going to be impossible to monitor if the companies are actually doing what they say.' -- Susan Linn, co-founder of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a parents' group in Boston
Congressman says: 'I would like the media industries to come forward with their own set of voluntary commitments. Children's television is supposed to be an oasis for kids in the vast wasteland of television. Food marketers setting standards is half the battle, but unless the media companies also set standards, junk-food ads will keep popping up to pollute the oasis." -- Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., chairman of House telecommunications subcommittee
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