NEWS RELEASE
For More Information Contact: Eva Seidelman (202) 588-7751
For Immediate Release: July 29th, 2008

Commercial Alert Responds to FTC Study on Junk Food Marketing to Kids

The following is a statement from Robert Weissman, managing director of Commercial Alert:

The FTC report* confirms what every parent (and kid) knows: Junk food and fast food companies are overwhelming children with marketing messages.

The FTC report demonstrates the comprehensive effort by junk food companies to manipulate kids. It shows how they use “cross promotions” to integrate marketing messages across promotional formats. A TV-centered ad campaign may be supplemented by toys, websites, theme park marketing, video games and sports promotions. For children, there is no escape.

Particularly notable in the FTC report is the more than $150 million spent in schools on junk food marketing (an amount that may be declining), and the extensive use of viral and word-of-mouth marketing. In viral marketing, advertisers shamelessly lure children into becoming witting or unwitting agents to hawk products to their friends.

The huge industry expenditures on advertising are contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic. Unfortunately, Congress, the FTC and other government regulators have stood by and done little or nothing as the epidemic has spiked. Thanks to public pressure, the industry has embarked on some modest, voluntary and nonenforceable self-regulation—a sad substitute for what is needed: laws and regulations that stop the marketing exploitation of children. One place to start would be a ban on TV advertising to children under 12. Another would be stop marketing to kids in school, including through vehicles such as Channel One.

Commercial Alert has proposed a broad agenda to protect children’s’ and parents’ rights from commercial interference in its Parents’ Bill of Rights, available at: <www.commercialalert.org/pbor.pdf>.

Commercial Alert is a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that seeks to keep commercial culture in its proper sphere, and keep it from exploiting children.

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* “Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation,” available at: <http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/07/foodmkting.shtm>.