Companies Pledge to Change Food Ads Targeted to Children

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On Wednesday, the Council of Better Business Bureaus announced advertising pledges from 11 major food and beverage companies: 

  • Cadbury Adams, USA, LLC

  • Campbell Soup Co.

  • The Coca-Cola Co.

  • General Mills, Inc.

  • The Hershey Co.

  • Kellogg Co.

  • Kraft Foods Inc.

  • Mars, Inc.

  • McDonald’s USA, LLC

  • PepsiCo, Inc.

  • Unilever United States

These companies accounted for an estimated two-thirds of children’s food and beverage TV advertising expenditures in 2004. Such marketing tactics frustrate many parents who feed their children fresh, organic foods amid a constant barrage of junk-food ads.

The pledges were announced at “Weighing In: A Check-Up on Marketing, Self-Regulation and Childhood Obesity,” a joint forum hosted by the Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“In 2005, FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt challenged the advertising industry to review and strengthen industry self-regulation of children’s food advertising in light of the growing concern about childhood obesity in our nation,” said Steven J. Cole, CBBB president and CEO. Last week’s commitments, he said, “respond directly to that challenge.”

“Collectively, these pledges will improve the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 and reduce the number of food advertisements run by participating companies,” added Elaine D. Kolish, director of the BBB’s initiative. “For example, these commitments effectively limit participating companies’ advertising of snack foods and other food products to those that meet new or existing better-for-you nutrition criteria, and limit the advertising of cereals to those with 12 or fewer grams of sugar per serving.”

Under the initiative’s baseline requirements, announced in November, participants agreed to devote at least half of their advertising primarily targeted to children younger than 12 to promoting healthier dietary choices or healthy lifestyles. Company commitments based on better-for-you dietary choices are required to be consistent with established scientific and/or government standards. The BBB will monitor and publicly report on the companies’ compliance with their pledges.

Each participating company has also agreed to restrict advertising that features third-party licensed characters. And all have committed to refrain from advertising in elementary schools and from product placement in movies or other editorial content primarily directed to children under 12.

All companies will implement their pledges by the end of next year.

“The market for healthier products is increasingly competitive, and we are seeing more and more companies move to reformulate or create new products in response to growing consumer demand,” said C. Lee Peeler, CBBB’s executive vice president of national advertising and president/CEO of the National Advertising Review Council. “We expect to see these commitments continue to evolve as we gain experience with the program, and we hope the number of participating companies will increase.” 

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