ANA Opposes Proposals to Expand the Definition of Children’s Advertising

January 26, 2015

A panel of experts brought together by Healthy Eating Research, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, recently issued recommendations for company policies on food marketing aimed at children. The recommendations suggest that children 14 and younger should be covered by company policies, expanding substantially the current cutoff of children 12 and under, which is the age to which most companies’ children’s marketing policies apply. The recommendations also say that audiences of a media program or venue be considered child-directed if children make up 25 percent of the audience or more, as opposed to the 35 percent threshold typically used by companies with food marketing policies. The panel also recommends that brands marketed to children should only contain products that meet a specific nutrition criteria.

The recommendations are designed to fill so-called “gaps” in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) self-regulatory program. The program has brought together 17 participants that represent about 80% of child-directed TV food advertising, including several ANA members. In response to these new recommendations, CFBAI and Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus issued a statement addressing the successes of the program and highlighting the robust, highly-regarded self-regulation that has significantly improved the children’s food marketing landscape. The FTC, for example, has been very laudatory of the CFBAI’s efforts.

ANA believes that it is inappropriate to expand substantially the age where kids are treated as children needing special advertising protection from under 12 to 14 and under. Also, ANA believes that this proposal coupled with the effort to treat advertising where as little as 25 percent of the audience is under 14 years of age as “directed to children” is clearly misguided and will undermine efforts to advertise to adults. It is clearly misleading to claim that children are being targeted by advertising where as much as 75 percent of an audience is not made up of children. No advertiser is going to buy time where the vast preponderance of the audience are not young children in order to “target them.” This proposal is both logically and factually inaccurate and should not be supported.

CFBAI has administered a successful, voluntary program for the nation’s leading food and beverage companies since 2007. Its program ensures that only foods that meet meaningful nutrition criteria are in advertising primarily directed to children under age 12. The CFBAI’s Core Principles work extremely well to protect the interests of children and have been widely emulated around the world. ANA strongly supports the efforts of CFBAI and will continue working to combat the dangers of childhood obesity and provide healthy options for consumers.

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