July 29, 2008
Contact: Josh Golin (617-896-9369;
For Immediate Release
Statement of CCFC’s Susan Linn on the
FTC Report: Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A
Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation
Federal Trade Commission’s report paints a frightening
picture of American childhood immersed in sophisticated,
integrated marketing campaigns for food and beverages. The food
industry exploits every technology and technique at its disposal
to insinuate its brands into the fabric of children’s lives.
Companies weave together television and internet advertising,
brand licensing, product placement, in-store advertising,
premiums, cross-promotions, and viral and in-school marketing to
create omnipresent campaigns designed to take advantage of the
most vulnerable consumers.
The FTC identified $1.6 billion as the
amount spent by food and beverage companies on marketing
directly to children, but that figure does not begin to reflect
children’s experience of that marketing. By the FTC’s own
admission there are some significant gaps:
Companies report $46 million for character or
cross-promotional brand licensing fees. However, most
cross-promotional arrangements do not require a fee. In 2006,
there were 81 media properties used by the target companies to
promote their brands. These cross-promotions turn entire
programs and movies into advertisements for the foods they
promote, yet they are not counted as expenditures.
The total expenditure figure does not include
spending for advertising and product placement on general
audience programming watched by children, even though primetime
shows such as American Idol and The Simpsons
typically have larger child and teen audiences than programs
considered children’s shows.
In-school advertising does not include regional
and local or franchise spending for fast food companies. For
example, McDonald’s infamous report card advertising in Seminole
County Florida was sponsored by a regional marketing association
and would not have been counted in the FTC Report.
As the FTC notes, internet advertising,
particularly on company sponsored websites, is relatively
inexpensive. Expenditure data does not begin to capture its
impact—the amount of time children spend with the sites and the
frequency of their visits.
Given the concerning picture of food
marketing’s infiltration of children’s lives painted by the FTC
report, it is disappointing that they continue to perpetuate the
myth that self-regulation can effectively rein in an industry
whose profits rely on commercializing childhood.