Tag Archives: marketing to children

Nickelodeon Reduces Junk Food Marketing to Kids

It gets curiouser and curiouser. From Reuters:

NEW YORK, Aug 16 (Reuters) – Viacom Inc’s children’s television network Nickelodeon will limit use of its licensed characters on food packaging for products that do not meet certain health criteria.

Nickelodeon’s announcement comes after some of America’s largest food and drink companies, including McDonald’s Corp, the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo Inc, last month said they would put stricter controls on advertising aimed at children under 12. Nickelodeon said its policy will become effective with new licensing agreements in January 2009, according to a letter on Wednesday from president Cyma Zarghami to Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the House telecommunications committee.

To reiterate the point from this post, I really do think there are some back room deals going on. If there is, the public should be informed of what is being said. Yeah, it makes me sound like a tin-foil hat wearin’ looney, but I can’t shake this feeling that the public is being intentionally left out of this debate.

The Politics of Breakfast Cereals

My apologies for not responding to this very silly Wall Street Journal Op-ed about Kellogg’s stopping use of licensed characters for marketing, unless the food in question meets certain nutrition benchmarks for sugar, fat and calories.

Here are some choice quotes from the piece:

This retreat comes after the Naderite Center for Science in the Public Interest


…the food activists, who are fronts for the trial bar, are targeting the cereal makers and broadcasters.

and finally…

The real issue is the threat of lawsuits themselves, which can cost tens of millions to defend while a company’s stock price is held hostage to a media assault.

Notice the level of invective? Notice the very carefully chose words and phrases such as “Naderite” and “front for the trial bar”, giving the perception, without proof mind you, that the quest to minimize influence of marketing upon children lays directly at the feet of the American Bar Association and any other legal institution that would profit from lawsuits against food companies.

Don’t you believe it.

In my opinion, the one thing more despicable than a greedy lawyer, is a greedy marketer. And is it the marketer or the lawyer who profits from the status quo of children’s advertising?

Look, obesity, especially children’s obesity is not as simple as “Children need to exercise more”. There are several other variables clearly at play, including what foods are being fed to them, the amount of food being fed, and yes, even the amount of time a child spends in front of the television being exposed to commercials that state “Cap’n Crunch is a nutritious part of a complete breakfast” or something similar.

As I’ve said before, if a company spends an inordinate amount of time and money hyping a brand, and people come to realize that the reality doesn’t measure up to the hype, the company shouldn’t be surprised when there is pushback. When consumers realize that Cookie Crisp and Count Chocula may not be as nutritious as the company has let on, the hype starts to seem less like PR and more like lies and manipulation.

And no one likes to be lied to and manipulated.

An Idea who’s time has come

Canadian School to Ronald McDonald : Don’t let the door hit ya’ where the good lord split ya’.

Education officials say Ronald McDonald, the clown mascot for fast-food giant McDonald’s, sends contradictory and confusing messages during his appearances in elementary schools to promote fitness and healthy eating.

The department has sent a memo to all school districts advising them that the McDonald’s clown is inconsistent with the fitness goals and objectives of the province’s school system.

Amen. Out of the many dispicible things Fast Food has done, I think how they’ve insinuated themselves into classrooms is the worst. I have no problems with them selling their wares. I have no problem with the calorie content of their food. I have many problems with them getting free advertising in school and/or supplying the kids with lunches, and then trying to deflect any criticism thrown at them by providing “educational” classes about nutrition and exercise. Can you say “Mixed messages”? I knew that you could.

Technorati Tags: Fast Food, McDonald’s

“Sports Drinks” for 4 year olds

Jack sent me a link to this article (LI: accidental PW: hedonist), and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it. Here you have several products which, if you go to their website, clearly state “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”, that are being marketed directly for children.

Advocare has products called Spark which contains several stimulants, including caffeeine. It is sold in two formulations: one for children 4 to 11 years old that includes roughly the amount of caffeine found in a cup and a half of coffee, and one containing twice that amount for teenagers and adults.

I’ll let this sink in. We have a company marketing an untested high-caffeine product to four year olds under the guise of providing Nutritional suplements for overall good health. In fact, there are promotional materials that suggest making Spark popsicles and gelatin jigglers.

For the record, there are few if any large, reliable studies looking at the effects of caffeine on children. But as the NY Times notes “The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages caffeine consumption by children. Canadian health authorities in 2003 recommended limiting daily intake of caffeine by children to 2.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, or roughly 45 milligrams for a typical 4- to 6-year-old. The recommendation was based on caffeine’s adverse behavioral effects on adults.”

And people wonder why I’m cynical when it comes to certain food companies. The primary concern out of several I have, is that there are adults out there using these “supplements” as a substitute for regular exercise.