Statement of CCFC’s Susan Linn on the FTC Report: Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation

Date of Release: 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

July 29, 2008
Contact: Josh Golin (617-896-9369; josh<at>
For Immediate Release 

Statement of CCFC’s Susan Linn on the FTC Report:  Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation

The Federal Trade Commission’s report paints a frightening picture of American childhood immersed in sophisticated, integrated marketing campaigns for food and beverages.  The food industry exploits every technology and technique at its disposal to insinuate its brands into the fabric of children’s lives.  Companies weave together television and internet advertising, brand licensing, product placement, in-store advertising, premiums, cross-promotions, and viral and in-school marketing to create omnipresent campaigns designed to take advantage of the most vulnerable consumers.

The FTC identified $1.6 billion as the amount spent by food and beverage companies on marketing directly to children, but that figure does not begin to reflect children’s experience of that marketing.  By the FTC’s own admission there are some significant gaps.

  • Companies report $46 million for character or cross-promotional brand licensing fees.  However, most cross-promotional arrangements do not require a fee.  In 2006, there were 81 media properties used by the target companies to promote their brands.  These cross-promotions turn entire programs and movies into advertisements for the foods they promote, yet they are not counted as expenditures.
  • The total expenditure figure does not include spending for advertising and product placement on general audience programming watched by children, even though primetime shows such asAmerican Idol and The Simpsons typically have larger child and teen audiences than programs considered children’s shows.
  • In-school advertising does not include regional and local or franchise spending for fast food companies.  For example, McDonald’s infamous report card advertising in Seminole County Florida was sponsored by a regional marketing association and would not have been counted in the FTC Report.
  • As the FTC notes, internet advertising, particularly on company sponsored websites, is relatively inexpensive.  Expenditure data does not begin to capture its impact—the amount of time children spend with the sites and the frequency of their visits.

Given the concerning picture of food marketing’s infiltration of children’s lives painted by the FTC report, it is disappointing that they continue to perpetuate the myth that self-regulation can effectively rein in an industry whose profits rely on commercializing childhood.