The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood was founded in 2000 by Susan Linn as an activist response to the rapidly escalating problem of commercialism encroaching on the lives of children.
CCFC, and the movement to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers, evolved from two events. In 1999, a diverse and interdisciplinary group of activists, academics, educators and healthcare providers concerned about corporate influences on children convened at Howard University. The next year, participants and others held a demonstration outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel on 42nd Street in New York City to protest the Golden Marble Awards, the advertising industry’s celebration of marketing to children. The protest garnered significant national media attention from NPR and USA Today to Advertising Age. Originally called Stop Commercial Exploitation of Children, CCFC continued to protest the Golden Marbles— through demonstrations and counter-conferences—until the industry cancelled them in 2003.
From a small group of concerned parents, health professionals, and educators CCFC has grown into a powerful force, working through every legal means possible to end the exploitive practice of child-targeted marketing so that children can grow up—and parents can raise them—without being undermined by greed.
- As a direct result of CCFC’s advocacy, YouTube, the number one kids’ website in the world, has significantly less surveillance and kid-targeted behavioral advertising. YouTube will also pay a record-breaking fine for illegally collecting kids' data for years.
- We stopped Mattell from releasing Aristotle, an always-on home assistant designed to “live” in a child’s room from birth to age 13. The device would have given Mattell constant access to kids' innermost thoughts and private moments and was designed to take on caregiving tasks normally reserved for a loving, caring adult.
- We persuaded the NFL to discontinue NFL Rush Fantasy, an online fantasy football game for kids 6-12. The game offered weekly and season-long prizes, including a grand cash prizes of $5,000, and was promoted in schools with a curriculum that taught children how to play fantasy football under the guise of learning math.
- We protected kids playing Pokemon GO, the augmented reality game from Nintendo and Niantic, from being pushed to sponsors’ real-life locations as part of gameplay.
- We raised the alarm on Hello Barbie, a doll that recorded children’s conversations and sent them back to Mattel (and Mattel’s unnamed third-party partners) for analysis. The doll shipped just 10,000 units during its debut holiday season -- a certified flop compared the 250,000 units expected for a hit toy.
- We helped protect children in over 30 states from advertising on school buses. From 2011 to 2016, 36 state bills were introduced around the US to legalize school bus advertising. Thanks to our efforts, 33 did not pass.
- We worked with parents and advocates across the country to halt the rise of inBloom, a Gates Foundation initiative that would have shared students’ most sensitive data - including their test scores, family incomes, behavioral histories, and even detailed health information – with private corporations. Parent, activist, and advocate pushback led inBloom to close its doors in 2014, and sent a strong message to other companies seeking to harvest student data: we’re watching.
- We stopped Robert Titzer and Your Baby Can Read! from taking advantage of parents with phony educational DVDs. Your Baby Can Read was a $200 video and flash card series that promised, with absolutely no evidence, to teach infants as young as 3 months old how to read. As a direct result of our 2011 FTC complaint against Titzer and co., Your Baby Can Read was charged with false advertising and forced to stop sales of its deceptive – and potentially harmful – products.
- We convinced Scholastic Inc., the renowned educational publisher, to stop distributing the United States of Energy, fourth grade teaching materials paid for by the American Coal Foundation. Following that success, we rallied tens of thousands of parents and educators to successfully persuade Scholastic to drastically limit its practice of partnering with corporations to produce sponsored teaching materials.
- We organized parents around the country to stop BusRadio, a company that broadcasted student-targeted ads on school buses. After a three-year campaign by CCFC, BusRadio closed its doors.
- We stopped McDonald’s from advertising on report card envelopes in Florida. The advertisements promised elementary school students free Happy Meals as a reward for good school performance.
- We convinced the Walt Disney Company to stop falsely promoting Baby Einstein videos as educational for babies and to offer refunds to parents who had been deceived by the company’s marketing.
- We prevented Hasbro from producing a line of dolls for six-year-old girls based on the Pussy Cat Dolls, a burlesque troupe turned singing group known for its sexualized songs and dances.