Advertisers Team Up for Food Fight


Major ad trade groups and food marketers have teamed up to fend off restrictions on food marketing aimed at kids.

As scientists and doctors debate whether TV ads are contributing to rising obesity rates in children, the Alliance for American Advertising aims to be the industry’s counter to activists’ claims that TV spots selling Pop-Tarts and Cap’n Crunch are fattening up kids.

“We have to become more pro-active because there is continual criticism of advertising related to childhood obesity,” said Wally Snyder, president of the American Advertising Federation, one of the new group’s seven members.

In addition to arguing against restrictions, the group will get the word out about food makers’ efforts to make children’s food healthier and to self-police advertising.

Other members are General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft Foods, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers and the Grocery Manufacturers of America.

“The purpose is to uphold our First Amendment right to advertise,” Snyder said.

In early January the Center for Science in the Public Interest called on TV networks, stations and food marketers to eliminate junk and fast food advertising to anyone under 18--one of the major sources of support for children’s programming.

Days later, Kraft announced plans to eliminate snack food advertising to children under 11. General Mills and Kellogg haven’t changed their advertising plans, although they are rolling healthier foods with less fat and sugar.

So far, chances are slim that Washington will impose new restrictions on food ads, but the topic continues to get scrutiny from health researchers. Friday the Institute of Medicine in Washington is scheduled to hold a workshop on food marketing and kids’ diets.

Speakers include representatives from McDonald’s and other food advertisers as well as networks specialists on children’s programming as well as children’s health and marketing researchers.