Watchdog Group: Reduce Junk Food Ads For Kids
Advocates Say Junk Food Ads Make Obesity Epidemic Worse
Industry groups responded Thursday that the guidelines unfairly focus on one
narrow aspect of an obesity problem that has complex and wide-ranging causes. A
statement issued by the Grocery Manufacturers of America said that the
guidelines "miss the point."
"Effective solutions must incorporate sound nutrition, increased
physical activity, consumer and parent education, and community support. Above
all, the focus should be on giving parents the information they need to ensure
their children eat a nutritionally balanced diet and get the right amount of
physical activity," the statement said.
Daniel J. Jaffe, chief lobbyist for the Association of National Advertisers,
Inc. tells WebMD that regardless of advertising, parents still have the final
say over what children consume. "If kids say they want something, the
parent can say no," he says.
Consumer advocates complain that industry advertising has reached the point
where it overwhelms parents' ability to monitor what their children eat.
Children are now exposed to an average of 58 advertising television messages
per day, about half of which push food products, according to the CSPI. Many
more pitches arrive over the Internet and in movie product placements, they
"Parental authority is undermined by wide discrepancies between what
parents tell their children is healthful to eat and what marketing promotes as
desirable to eat," the guidelines state.
American firms doubled their child-directed advertising from $6.9 billion to
$15 billion per year between 1992 and 2002, says James McNeal, PhD, president
of the McNeal & Kids advertising consulting firm and a former professor of
marketing at Texas A&M University. Between one-third and one-half of those
dollars are spent by food and beverage makers, he tells WebMD.
Industry groups point out that the average number of television commercials
broadcast to kids per hour has not changed over the last decade.
McNeal says that children are "potentially getting more opportunities to
view ads" mostly because of largely unmeasured advertising on web sites and
in widespread cross-marketing that ties foods to entertainment products kids
"The only way marketing gets in the door is when the parents turn the
house over to the marketers," he says. "The parents have ceded the
household to marketers gradually but surely."