New Voluntary Guidelines for Marketing to Children Are Window Dressing at Best

Date of Release: 

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

November 14, 2006
Contact: Josh Golin (617-896-9369; josh<at>
For Immediate Release

New Voluntary Guidelines for Marketing to Children Are Window Dressing at Best

Statement of CCFC co-founder Dr. Susan Linn:

The Children’s Advertising Review Unit’s revised guidelines are the clearest indication yet that, when it comes to marketing to children, self-regulation has failed. In the midst of an epidemic of childhood obesity, the industry has proposed a series of guidelines for junk food advertising that are window dressing at best:

• The food industry will be allowed to continue to promote unhealthy food to children by adding token messages about “lifestyle.” A scene of kids snowboarding inserted in a commercial for Big Macs is not going to reduce children’s junk food consumption or childhood obesity.

• Cartoon characters will continue to be used to promote unhealthy food. The guidelines only call for this kind of marketing to be reduced—there are no specific goals or restrictions.

• Advergaming will be allowed to continue, including for unhealthy food like candy bars and sugary cereals.

• Corporate sponsored educational materials and other in-school programs that promote company brands will still be allowed, even in elementary schools. Ronald McDonald and other company spokescharacters will continue to visit schools all over the country.

• CARU’s guidelines are not enforceable. A recent study found that 82% of food industry websites for children do not comply with CARU's guidelines. Specifically, only 18% provide ad breaks or ad alerts for children on their website ads.

It is noteworthy that the food companies participating on CARU’s process were not able to identify one substantial change in their policies. That months of industry deliberation resulted in virtually no change in advertising policy is just another nail in the coffin of self-regulation. Once again corporate America has shown that they cannot and should not be charged with the responsibility of guarding the health and well-being of children.