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ARTICLES: Pressure builds against ads directed at children

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    SOURCE: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/living/8318600.htm Pressure builds against ads directed at children By Joseph Pereira and Audrey Warren Wall
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2004
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      SOURCE: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/living/8318600.htm

      Pressure builds against ads directed at children

      By Joseph Pereira and Audrey Warren

      Wall Street Journal


      Health and children's advocates are turning up the volume on calls for
      tighter restrictions on television ads aimed at kids. Stoking their efforts
      are growing concerns over obesity and research indicating that young viewers
      are especially susceptible to commercial messages.

      Last month, the American Psychological Association called for sharp federal
      restrictions on commercials aimed at children younger than 8. Also last
      month, the Kaiser Family Foundation fingered TV watching and TV ads as prime
      suspects in rising juvenile-obesity rates. And at a recent U.S. Senate
      subcommittee hearing, the debate over the mass media's role in obesity grew
      so heated that lawmakers are considering a follow-up hearing.

      Now the American Academy of Pediatrics, the APA and other health care groups
      plan to step up lobbying for more limits on ads. An organization of groups
      critical of youth advertising, called Stop Commercial Exploitation of
      Children, has launched a petition drive calling on the Federal Trade
      Commission or Government Accounting Office to review the oversight of
      marketing to children.

      ``We think it's time for the government to take a real hard look at the
      industry's practices,'' says Susan Linn, a psychiatry instructor at Harvard
      Medical School and head of the foundation-supported group. Linn cites
      estimates that companies spend $15 billion a year on marketing to children.

      Critics point to common themes in many kid-focused ads. They often rely on
      cartoon characters that young children recognize, such as Scooby-Doo, to
      sell snacks or sugared cereal. Many of the ads appeal to their young
      targets' rebellious impulses. Recent spots for Kraft Foods Inc.'s
      Lunchables, for example, shows kids in crowded classrooms using the product
      like a video-game control to erase a pop quiz from the blackboard or
      fast-forward the hands of the clock. The ads end with, ``You're in
      control.''

      In a spot for Kellogg Co.'s French Toast Pop-Tarts, a boy enters a diner
      filled with unattractive adults, orders Pop-Tarts and is instantly served.

      In a Kellogg spot for Eggo French Toaster Sticks, a guy in a French toast
      suit bursts from a car, leading police and a kid on a backyard chase. A
      commercial for Cap'n Crunch Choco Donuts, from PepsiCo's Quaker Oats, shows
      the captain crashing a ship into a swimming pool, sending up a shower of
      chocolate doughnuts, milk and a woman in a bathing suit.

      ``Usually grown-ups are just stupid and stand in the way of what kids want''
      in these ads, says Diane Levin, an education professor at Wheelock College,
      Boston. ``The idea is to create,'' she said, ``a sort of premature
      adolescent rebellion among kids.''

      Marketers -- and not just those of kids foods -- see a major threat brewing.
      ``Momentum, not just in the U.S., but in Europe as well, is building and
      we're watching developments very closely,'' says Tom Conley, president of
      the Toy Industry of America, a trade group. Strategy XXI Group Ltd., a New
      York consulting firm is working for the toy-industry group to track efforts
      to limit youth ads in nearly 20 counties.

      ``As an industry, we strongly reject the claims that advertising causes
      childhood obesity and the related premise that new government restrictions
      or bans on advertising to children should be imposed,'' said Bob Liodice,
      chief executive of the Association of National Advertisers, who testified at
      the Senate hearings.

      Instead of governmental intervention, ``parents must learn to say no more
      frequently to their children,'' says Dan Jaffe, head of ANA's lobbying
      office in Washington, warning, ``Any ban or restriction could bring
      children's programming on free TV to an end.''

      Current restrictions in the U.S., enforced by the Federal Communications
      Commission under the 1990 Children's Television Act, limit ads on children's
      programs to no more than 10.5 minutes per half hour on weekends and 12
      minutes an hour on weekdays. An industry-established group, the Children's
      Advertising Review Unit has been designated by the FTC since 1978 to be a
      self-regulating body, reviewing ads and claims targeted to children.

      Tightening existing limits would take a law enacted by Congress or a change
      in administrative rules by the FTC or another agency, though any such
      measures would face fierce opposition from advertisers.

      Many advertisers say they have no desire to set kids against authority
      figures with their ads. Kellogg says it stands by the nutritional value of
      Cinnamon Marshmallow Scooby-Doo cereal and that cartoon characters are an
      appropriate way to help young consumers distinguish brands. The French Toast
      Pop-Tarts spot is meant to contrast generations, but no commercial is meant
      to show any group in a negative light, says Celeste Clark, a company
      spokeswoman. ``We are very sensitive to making sure the commercial messages
      aren't disparaging in any way.''

      Kraft says its Lunchables ads aren't meant to make kids rebel. The slogan
      ``You're in Control'' refers to how kids can build sandwiches with
      Lunchables, says Kathy Knuth, a spokeswoman. ``Our belief is that moms still
      make the decision on what kids eat.''

      Susan Wolfe, a Quaker spokeswoman, says Cap'n Crunch is a ``fun cereal'' and
      Quaker takes creative measures to create awareness for it. ``Relative to the
      issue of childhood obesity, exercise definitely must play an active part of
      the solution,'' she adds.

      _______________________________________________

      Chris Schuepp
      Young People's Media Network
      Coordinator

      c/o ecmc
      European Centre for Media Competence
      Bergstrasse 8
      D-45770 Marl
      Germany

      Tel: +49 2365 502480
      Mobile: +49 176 23107083
      Fax: +49 12 125 125 21981
      Email: cschuepp@...
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      Mailing list: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/youthful-media

      The YPMN is supported by UNICEF and hosted by the ECMC.
      ____________________________________________


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