Nick Toons Push Fruits & Veggies


Sorry, Popeye, but if Viacom has its way, SpongeBob will be the new cartoon rep for a certain leafy green vegetable.

The health-related media announcements were as thick as double-chocolate shakes Wednesday in advance of Thursday's Federal Trade Commission seminar on obesity and food marketing to children.

On top of a food manufacturers association decision to recommend tightening self-regulation of advertising, and The Ad Council's announcement that it was helping form a government/industry coalition to market healthy lifestyles (see items elswhere in TV Fax), Viacom's Nickelodeon, the dominant Kids TV brand, added that it had signed a deal to slap its cartoon characters on fruit, vegetables, and lowfat milk.

"The agreements are the latest initiative by Nickelodeon to encourage healthier diet and lifestyle choices for kids," said the company.

Supermarkets next month will start seeing SpongeBob on bags of spinach, and Dora (and SpongeBob again) on bags of oranges and carrots (Sorry, Bugs, SpongeBob is taking over your territory, too).

The network will also unveil later this month new PSAs on the importance of "starting the day by eating a balanced breakfast," though that line, perhaps unfortunately, evokes the ads for sweetened cereals usually billed as "part of a balanced breakfast."

Be that as it may, the network has put money where little mouths are, commiting $20 million and 10% of its airtime to "health and wellness" messages.