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Big Advertisers Change Course on Kid-Targeted Commercials

Nov 14, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Under pressure from Congress and consumer advocates to change its ways, the ad industry on Tuesday unveiled the biggest rewrite of its kids advertising guidelines in 32 years and an initiative by 10 of the country’s biggest food marketers to devote most of their kids ads to promoting healthier foods and lifestyles.

Cadbury Schweppes USA, Campbell Soup Co., The Coca-Cola Co., General Mills, The Hershey Co., Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, PepsiCo and Unilever, which together account for more than two-thirds of the food and beverage ads, signed on as charter participants in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, with other companies expected to be added later.

As part of the changes, the companies all agreed to devote at least half their advertising aimed at children “to promote healthy dietary choices and/or to encourage good nutrition or healthy lifestyles;” ban product placement for kids products in entertainment content and reduce the use of third-party licensed characters in advertising for products or messages that don’t comply with the initiative’s direction.

While the initiative has potentially dramatic effects for food companies’ marketing, the rewrite of the industry marketing guidelines to kids under 12, administered by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit, applies to all industries and affects marketers of games, videos and toys as well.

Tuesday’s announcement was made by the Council of Better Business Bureaus and its National Advertising Review Council. The three main advertising associations—the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the American Advertising Federation and the Association of National Advertisers—are part of the CBBB, as are a number of marketers. CARU is a unit of the National Advertising Review Council.

The announcement followed a long review of CARU’s guidelines eventually headed by Jodie Bernstein, former director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, and comes amid considerable pressure from Congress, some members of the Federal Communications Commission and consumer groups, who have charged marketers aren’t doing enough to rein in junk-food ads and specifically attacked TV ads.

In announcing the changes, the Better Business Bureau, ad association executives and marketers touted the changes as proof that industry self-regulation works.

“This program is an excellent example of how voluntary self-regulation and the BBB advance marketplace trust,” Steven J. Cole, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureaus, said in a statement.

Nancy Weise, chairman of the NARC board and VP of worldwide brand marketing for Xerox, said the efforts would be coordinated with the Ad Council’s Coalition for Healthy Children.