Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Restricting ads to children

If you've been interested in the subject at all, you'll know that advertising to children has been getting some attention for the last several years. Most notably is the Teletubbie/McDonald's fiasco. Advertising to children is nothing new. The new Transformers movie is based off of an 80's cartoon show that was created for the sole purpose of selling Transformer toys.

Parents don't seem to get upset when media and corporations turn their kids into mindless consumers, but they do get upset when it makes them fat.

Are food and drink firms going to restrict advertising to children? I doubt it. But saying you are is certainly good PR. They aren't going to stop advertising (or even restrict it), they are just going to shift it to something else. It probably won't be as obvious, and I bet most parents will fall for it.

The self-imposed rules include pledges by seven companies who will no longer use licensed characters, such as those made popular through movies or TV shows, to advertise online or in print media unless they're promoting their healthier products.

Emphasis added by me. See, McDonald's (infamous for placing popular cartoon characters on the sides of a happy meal) already heavily promotes "healthier alternatives", which I put in quotes because they generally aren't healthier; they just have the appearance of being healthy. Check the nutrition information on those salads and after you add the chicken and the dressing, you might be better off with a Big Mac.

Anyway, McDonald's knows it doesn't have to emphasize only its unhealthy junk food. It can advertise its healthy food all day long, but once the kid steps through the door, are they going to order a salad with a cheap tasteless fruit cup or with hot salty french fries? Hmm.

Four other companies said they do not advertise at all to children under 12.

No, they advertise to children over 12. And who do children under 12 look up to? Right, the children over 12. There's a trickle-down effect with child marketing. Do you really think a 9 year old is not going to be affected by the same ad that is "marketed" to a 12 year old? And do you think 9 year old Billy is going to be happy with a fruit cup when his 12 year old brother is scarfing down a delicious box of artery clogging fries?

McDonald's USA said it will advertise only two types of Happy Meal to children younger than 12: one with four Chicken McNuggets, apple dippers with caramel dip and low-fat white milk, or one with a hamburger, apple dippers and milk. They both meet the company-set requirement of less than 600 calories, and no more than 35 percent of calories from fat, 10 percent of calories from saturated fat or 35 percent total sugar by weight.

Ah, so much for the fruit cup. Do you know what "apple dippers" are? It's an apple, obviously, with a rich calorie dense sauce that you smother it with. There goes your healthy snack. Have you met a 10 year old? Do you think they are going to be satisfied with 4 measly nuggets and a few apple slices? It may be 600 calories, but if the kid has to have a snack before dinner just to fill his tummy, its NOT a "meal under 600 calories".

But wait, could the entire article be an ad? The first paragraph...

The companies, including Campbell Soup Co.(CPB), General Mills Inc. (GIS) and PepsiCo Inc. (PEP), announced their new rules ahead of a Federal Trade Commission hearing Wednesday that steps up pressure on the companies to help curb the growing child obesity problem through more responsible marketing.

...with links to the stocks of each company (and McDonald's in the subheader). Sponsors?

Parents, this is all just more marketing. It's all a ploy to get you to spend more money and stuff your kid's face with their food by tricking you into believing they give a rats behind about your fat child. The answer is not restricting advertising or coming up with wacky meals under some bizarre calorie limit (as if limiting calories is the only factor of a healthy meal, puhlease!). The answer is for you to learn how to say NO!

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