Kids Still Being Targeted – But Differently
New guidelines proposed by
the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture
Department and the Centers for Disease Control at the request of Congress aim
to encourage a re-think on how the food industry target markets to kids. Cartoon
characters used on television, packaging and online games were specifically
mentioned as manufacturers and restaurants were advised to choose between making
their food healthier or reducing the ways in which they are promoted to children.
Dale Kunkel of the University of Arizona, according to the New York Times,
put it, "Toucan Sam can sell healthy food or junk food."
support and disagreement were almost instantly aired.
"Kids are targeted too often," wrote Marion Nestle, professor
of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, in foodpolitics.com,
citing numerous examples.
However, the Grocery Manufacturers Association found
kids between two and eleven in 2010 saw 50 percent fewer ads on programs aimed
at them than they did in 2004, according to Supermarket News. The food industry,
according to the Times, was also critical because it claims to have "already
taken significant steps to improve recipes and change the way it advertises
Although voluntary at the moment, there is likely to be
pressure for compliance and suspicion. Dan Jaffe, an executive vice president
of the Association of National Advertisers, told the Times, "There’s
clearly a demand hidden behind the velvet glove of the voluntary language."
inclusion of digital media such as product-based games represents one of the
government’s strongest efforts so far to address the extension of
advertising into the online world.
According to the Times, food "companies
often selling sugar cereals and junk food, are using multimedia games, online
quizzes and cellphone apps to build deep ties with young consumers. And children
… are sharing their messages through e-mail and social networks, effectively
acting as marketers."
Kids also can’t tell the difference between games and ads,
wrote Matt Richtel in the Times. In spite of banners reading, "Hey
kids, this is advertising," he quotes Susannah Stern, associate professor
of communication studies at the University of San Diego, who believes brands
"do not raise awareness of who put the game up or why."
Some may ask whether sharing
favorite games equates to shilling for manufacturers.
Online activities cost
less than traditional ads to produce and disseminate, especially as kids do
much of the latter themselves.
- Children fail to recognise online ads,
study says – The New York Times
- In online games, a path to young consumers – The New York Times
- Food marketing to kids goes viral – Food Politics
- Study: kids see fewer ads – Supermarket News
- U.S. seeks new limits on food ads for children – The New York Times
Discussion Questions: What’s fair game for targeting kids in the new world of digital communications? Have manufacturers blurred and/or crossed the lines by shifting children’s advertising to online games and mobile devices?