My First Experience Standing up to Marketing to Children

By: CCFC Member Mark N.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from our principal saying that a production company would be coming to see if our school would make a good location for a Kraft Lunchables commercial. No children would be used in the shoot and no identifying information regarding our school would be used. In exchange, we would receive $2,500 for our school. Free money!

Personally, this raised some red flags. Our district promotes healthy eating through its lunch options and limits using food as incentives. What message would we be sending our students by taking money from Kraft to allow a commercial to be filmed for an unhealthy product like Lunchables? Additionally, companies including Kraft aim to turn our children into consumers of their products, no matter the health benefits or costs. This brought to mind some of the topics I had read on CCFC’s blog and in their newsletters regarding advertising on buses and Channel One. Here was one more example of a large corporation transforming a school into a marketing goldmine.

I emailed my principal outlining my concerns.

My principal replied that this would be a good topic to bring up at our next leadership meeting, which was in about 12 hours. Yikes! Prior to my presentation, I had grand visions in my head of how I would bring down Kraft and enlighten all my coworkers with my insights on marketing to children. I was a little nervous, but this was my big chance. I had the opportunity to change the world! In my head, this was a slam dunk.

Then the meeting started. My heart rate started to increase and sweat was forming on my brow. I presented my viewpoint through a shaky voice. When I finished sharing my thoughts, there were a few head nods and not much further discussion. The meeting moved on to another topic. No fanfare, no fireworks, no enlightenment, no change.

After the meeting, I thought of all the things I should have said. I realized I could have summed up my ideas in one sentence:

Do we want to support a company that doesn’t have the best interest of children in mind?

Even with all the books and blogs I’ve read, I still have a hard time articulating my ideas regarding marketing to children. I don’t always feel it is my place to influence others’ beliefs or educate them on things they don’t care to learn about. However, it really does come down to what is best for children.  When I see companies pushing products (see the TOADY Award), I ask myself, is this product created with my daughter’s best interest in mind? Most of the time it is not. Now that commercialism has become so invasive, it will be challenging to protect her from the continued barrage of messages wanting her to buy more, spend more, and consume more. I am starting to realize that my efforts start at home. Educating my daughter to make good choices for her body, mind, and as a consumer are now my priority. Spreading this message to others is a challenging task, but one that I’m taking a step at a time.

I have no idea if saying something different during my meeting would have changed my colleagues’ minds. At least planting the seed was a start. This is what CCFC and other organizations have done for me. They’ve planted enough seeds of information in my head until I finally had the courage to say something and stand up for what I believe in. Although I didn’t cause quite the revolution I thought I would, I tried.

The production company did visit our school, but a decision has yet to be made as to whether our school fits its needs. The reality is that the commercial will eventually get made, be it at our school or another. But knowing that I did my part to prevent it is one more experience I can share with my daughter and students to provide them with an example of standing up for something they believe in.

Mark N. is a 4th grade teacher and CCFC member.