Kids seeing fewer food and beverage ads on TV, survey finds
The research was conducted by Georgetown Economic Services (GES) on behalf of the GMA and the Association of National Advertisers. The GMA attributes many of the changes in advertising on children’s programming to a voluntary scheme established in 2006 by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, called the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI).
The initiative has 17 members, including some of the nation’s biggest food and beverage manufacturers, and has the stated aim of “shifting the mix of advertising messaging directed to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles”.
In addition to a reduction in the overall number of food advertisements on children’s programming, the GES research also found a shift in the type of products being advertised.
GMA president and CEO Pamela Bailey said: “In recent years, food and beverage companies have adopted strict nutrition standards that have fundamentally changed the advertising landscape. Since 2005, there has been a significant decrease in overall food and beverage advertising on children’s programs, coupled with a dramatic increase in ads featuring healthier product choices and healthy lifestyle messages. These changes would not have taken place without the leadership and commitment demonstrated by America’s food and beverage companies.”
In particular, the research found that advertisements for cookies on children’s programming declined 99 percent; for gum and mints by nearly 100 percent; candy by 68 percent; frozen and refrigerated pizza by 95 percent; and for soft drinks by 96 percent. Meanwhile, advertisements for fruit and vegetable juices increased 199 percent.
However, there is controversy about whether voluntary advertising standards are sufficient to prevent advertising for less healthy products from being targeted at children. A recent study from Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy found that even though the number of kids’ TV food commercials has fallen, cross-promotions on food packaging targeted at children increased by 78 percent between 2006 and 2008. Cross-promotions include use of third-party licensed characters, as well as tie-ins with other television shows and movies, athletes, sports teams and events, theme parks, toys and games, and charities.
Meanwhile, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has long argued for stricter standards for food manufacturers marketing their products to children.
Director of nutrition policy at CSPI Margo Wootan said last week: “Companies’ policies aren’t making enough of a difference.”
She was speaking in response to a newly proposed set of voluntary guidelines for industry issued by the Federal Trade Commission, intended to promote healthy choices for children.
However, president and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers Bob Liodice claims that food manufacturers have made significant changes in their advertising to children.
“The advertising community has actively responded to the obesity challenge in the United States and this study once again confirms that food and beverage advertising directed to children under 12 has trended significantly downwards,” he said. “In addition, food options that provide low-fat, low-sodium and low-calorie choices have dramatically increased.”
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