Marketing health

San Francisco Chronicle
 June 22, 2007

DON'T CRY for Froot Loops.

Ads for an icon of the sugary-cereal kingdom will soon disappear from Saturday morning television programming intended for children.

It's part of a growing, and most welcome, acceptance by the food industry that food advertising directed at children can be bad for their health.

In a remarkable agreement, the Kellogg Co., the giant of the U.S. cereal industry, has pledged to phase out advertising of Froot Loops and other food products that don't meet agreed-upon nutrition standards on media intended mostly for children under the age of 12.

It's less significant that the agreement came in response to a threatened lawsuit filed by two advocacy organizations, the Center of Science in the Public Interest and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

What's most important is that the agreement involves Kellogg's, and should have a ripple effect throughout the food advertising industry. (For details, go to

It also highlights just how multifaceted and all-encompassing advertising toward children has become.

In the agreement, Kellogg's has agreed not to advertise any foods in schools and preschools with children younger than age 11, nor to sponsor product placements in any medium targeted at that age group. It also pledged not to use licensed characters, such as Shrek, to peddle unhealthy foods to children.

The agreement is just a start. Advertising for sugar-loaded cereals, such as Frosted Flakes, will still be permitted (because it "only" contains 11 grams of sugar, just below the agreed-upon 12 gram standard). It allows for advertising of even the affected products on programs where as many as 49 percent of its audience could be under age 12.

We know that childhood obesity is a problem for all children -- and becomes most pronounced during adolescence. So why limit the restraints just to media directed at children?

But those considerations shouldn't obscure the larger accomplishment: an acceptance by an industry leader that the health of children must be considered in a vast commercial marketplace where profits often override other concerns.