FTC calls kid food a $1.6B category


Manufacturers and distributors of foods and beverages aimed $1.6B at children during 2006, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The campaigns often integrated various media and approaches, with television receiving almost half of that amount. In light of its findings, FTC is asking advertisers “to adopt and adhere to meaningful, nutrition-based standards for marketing their products to children under 12.”

The FTC detailed the prevailing technique, noting that “food advertising to youth is dominated by integrated advertising campaigns that combine traditional media, such as television, with previously unmeasured forms of marketing, such as packaging, in-store advertising, sweepstakes, and Internet. These campaigns often involve cross-promotion with a new movie or popular television program.”

Of the $1.6B, $870M was aimed at children and over $1B at adolescents, with a $300M age-group overlap.

Meanwhile, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative also released a report, and found that its 14 participants have made strides in their effort to curb advertising of less-than-healthful items to children. “The first six months of the program’s operation have shown that the CFBAI’s participants are dedicated to honoring their pledge obligations and to helping to achieve the balance in child-directed food and beverage advertising that is the program’s goal. As with any new program, there were occasional glitches and some growing pains as the participants implemented sometimes dramatic changes to the way they were doing business.”

FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate, the unofficial go-to commissioner on children’s matters, commented, “America’s parents will be pleased with today’s Report, which shows that fourteen of America’s food and beverage companies, which account for more than two-thirds of total food advertising expenditures, have met their pledge obligations.  I want to praise them for the steps they have taken– some are true industry leaders, having agreed not to advertise any food and beverage products to children under 12.  Other companies are advertising only "better for you" products.  While these are positive first steps, I plan to continue challenging more media companies to embrace their own voluntary, self-regulatory initiatives.  I will continue to shine a spotlight on the epidemic of childhood obesity, as well as positive steps being taken by the food and beverage, media, and advertising industries.”

The companies participating in CFBAI include Burger King, Cadbury Adams, Campbell Soup Company, The Coca-Cola Company, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Inc., The Hershey Company, Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods, Mars, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, and Unilever.

RBR/TVBR observation: It will be very interesting to see if the FTC repeats its study with 2007 data – the 2006 results were accumulated before these 14 companies changed their ways. Of course, this ain’t the greatest time you could think of to pull $1.6B out of the advertising pie – the trick is to keep the cash flowing in promotion of healthy food alternatives.