Time to kick kid ads in the
New York Daily News
Sunday, February 5th, 2006
'Ha ha! Got the French fry. Go
nachos, go! Watch out for the shake!
Kill the fry!"
There I was, dutifully chopping the
salad for dinner, when I heard those
cheers emitting from my
computer-savvy son. And at that
moment, like the hapless fry itself,
I knew that I'd been beat.
Vigilant mom that I am, I'm simply
no match for a super-sophisticated
ad industry bent on devising
ever-sneakier ways to market junk
food to kids.
No parent can fight this juggernaut
alone, even a parent armed with good
intentions, TV time limits and a
fridge full of fruit. Advertisers
spend $10 billion a year trying to
influence kids' food choices. They
wouldn't waste their money if it
didn't work. That's why a suit to be
filed later this month against
Kellogg's and Viacom (owner of
Nickelodeon, among other TV
properties) could prove a great
thing for American families.
The Center for Science in the Public
Interest and the Campaign for a
Commercial-Free Childhood are suing
these companies for a cool $2
billion on the grounds that they are
leaders in the field of kiddie junk
"There is simply no moral, ethical
or social justification for
marketing junk food to children,"
says co-plaintiff Susan Linn.
"Children have a right to grow up,
and parents have the right to raise
them, without being undermined by
Right on. Why do we allow companies
to target kids in their quest to
sell unhealthy food? We don't let
tobacco companies advertise to
children, because we don't want kids
to smoke. We don't have Dora the
Explorer Tequila because we know
that liquor isn't good for young 'uns.
But when your kids can't turn on
Nick Jr. without being urged to eat
SpongeBob SquarePants Wild
Bubble-Berry Pop Tarts, they're in
"These foods are high in calories
and low in nutrients," says
co-plaintiff Michael Jacobson.
Kids who eat a lot of junk food are
at risk of growing pudgy, obese or
even diabetic. The stats show that's
exactly what is happening. So why
haven't we put any brakes on the
Because, so far, we have been
willing to believe that any excesses
are our own fault. When Advertising
Age, bible of the ad industry, asked
its readers, "Who is responsible for
childhood obesity in the U.S.?" the
overwhelming response was - big
surprise - "Parents!"
Unaddressed was the fact that the ad
industry deliberately circumvents
parental influence when peddling its
wares. Junk food marketers embed
their message in computer games, Web
sites, school promotions and toy
tie-ins. A kid can wake up in
SpongeBob sheets and tote her
SpongeBob lunchbox to school, where
she'll eat her SpongeBob macaroni
with a SpongeBob Fruit Snack chaser.
She's living in a 24-hour ad for TV
and bad food.
She deserves a break, dare I say,
today? And so do her parents.