As FTC Convenes 2007 Workshop On Childhood Obesity, ANA Highlights Unprecedented Steps By Private Industry To Combat This Nation

New Research Documents Steady Reduction in TV Food Ads Reaching Children 2-11

New York, NY — As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) convenes its workshop on childhood obesity today, food marketers can point to multiple, unprecedented initiatives by private industry that are directly designed to assist in responding to the alarming rise in childhood obesity, according to an assessment by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA).

In addition, new research jointly commissioned by the ANA and the Grocery Manufacturers Association/Food Products Association documents a substantial 8.5 percent reduction between 2004 and 2006 in food, beverage and restaurant ads seen by the average child 2-11 years old. This research, executed by Georgetown Economic Services, adds to prior data which showed a 13.5 percent decrease between 1993 and 2004. Together, these studies reveal a 22 percent decline in food, beverage and restaurant ads seen on TV by the average child over the past 12 years.

“The steady decline in food advertising to children on broadcast and cable, coupled with the enormous changes in food advertising, signal a remarkable transformation in the marketplace,” said Robert Liodice, ANA President and CEO. “Everyone – government, educators and parents – must do their part to combat childhood obesity in America. In that regard, the marketing industry has shown exceptional leadership by taking extremely strong, voluntary steps.”

Those comprehensive actions, according to Liodice, directly address the FTC’s childhood obesity recommendations issued in May 2006 and based on the agency’s July 2005 workshop. They include:

  • The introduction of 10,000 new and reformulated products that offer consumers nutritionally improved choices. This data is based on a Grocery Manufacturers Association/Food Products Association (GMA/FPA) survey of 49 companies representing approximately $250 billion in annual U.S. food and beverage industry sales.
  • A far-reaching, voluntary pledge by 11 major food companies representing more than two-thirds of children’s food and beverage TV advertising expenditures as measured in 2004. On November 14, 2006, as part of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, these companies publicly agreed to devote at least half their advertising directed to children on television, radio, print and the internet to promote healthier dietary choices and/or to messages that encourage good nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Their detailed pledges, announced today, go dramatically further. Most of the companies have agreed to advertise “better for you” products 100 percent of the time in programs directed primarily to children 12 and under. Others have committed to eliminate all advertising to kids under 12.

    These pledges also include eliminating the use of third-party licensed characters in advertising primarily directed to children 12 and under, except for “better for you” products; the elimination of product placements in programming directed to children; and a commitment not to engage in advergaming unless the game incorporates “better for you” products and/or healthy lifestyles. These voluntary company commitments will be carefully monitored by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), and a website will be available to the public to notify the Council if any companies deviate from their pledges.
  • Significant revisions to – and expansion of – the industry’s self-regulatory guidelines, which are administered by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The new guidelines, introduced in November 2006, strengthen CARU’s oversight of all advertising directed to children under 12 and specifically address advertising that blurs the distinction between marketing communications and program content and interactive games that include commercial messages.
  • A massive Healthy Lifestyles national public service advertising campaign under the auspices of the Ad Council and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. To date, this campaign has been supported by $350 million in donated time and space by media companies. In February, the Ad Council launched a new round of PSAs featuring Shrek characters urging children to get more exercise.

    The Ad Council has also joined with a broad range of marketers, media companies, nonprofits, foundations and government agencies to form the Coalition for Healthy Children. That group is working to develop consistent, relevant and resonating messages that marketers can all incorporate in their ads to encourage healthier lifestyles.

    The Coalition has crafted messages for adults and children based on five basic communications strategies: physical activity, food choices, food portions, the balance between food and activity, and role modeling (for parents only). The messages are the result of careful research, supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The members of the Coalition have agreed to incorporate those messages into their advertising, packaging, websites and other consumer communications.
  • A high-visibility in-store promotion program, My Pyramid/Take a Peak, orchestrated by the GMA/FPA and Food Marketing Institute. This effort, designed to move the federal government’s dietary advice – My Pyramid – from the internet to the grocery aisle, is supported by 33 retailers and 35 food companies.
  • Two programs that directly impact students in their school settings: The Healthy Schools Partnership initiative of the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition Foundation, PE4Life and the American Dietetic Foundation; and the school beverage guidelines of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a joint initiative of the William J. Clinton Foundation, the American Heart Association and the American Beverage Association.

“These extraordinary, voluntary efforts demonstrate the marketing industry’s willingness to take strong, comprehensive actions to address consumer and government concerns about childhood obesity in America,” said Daniel Jaffe, ANA Executive Vice President of Government Relations. “The advertising community has already spent multi-billions of dollars responding to consumer demands for more options in the marketplace to combat childhood obesity. Today’s announcements are an even greater acceleration of those efforts. They also illustrate that self-regulation is working – and working extremely well.”

About the ANA:

The Association of National Advertisers leads the marketing community by providing its members insights, collaboration and advocacy. ANA’s membership includes 400 companies with 9000 brands that collectively spend over $100 billion in marketing communications and advertising. The ANA strives to communicate marketing best practices, lead industry initiatives, influence industry practices, manage industry affairs and advance, promote and protect all advertisers and marketers.

Press Contacts:
Rachael Adler
CooperKatz & Co.

Lesley Weiner
CooperKatz & Co.