Legal Scholars Take On the Food, Media and Ad Lobby on Marketing Junk Food to Kids
By: Jeff Chester | Sep 6 2011
Viacom, the ANA, and leading food companies have unleashed a lobbying blitz at White House, Congress, & the FTC that threatens to kill-off proposed scientific-based guidelines to be used when marketing food and beverage products to kids and teens, inc. online. Viacom hired well-know First Amendment attorney Kathleen Sullivan--whose firm reps or has represented Disney, Time Warner, Google, the Motion Picture Academy, Yahoo, etc. As part of the new food and media biz lobbying machine, they hired Anita Dunn, Pres. Obama's former head of communication, to run a so-called new coalition misnamed as Sensible Food Policy. Their over-the top lobbying effort has placed a deep political chill on the WH, FTC and elsewhere on the guidelines--which were developed to help reverse the youth obesity crisis created by the products and ads these companies have developed that target youth. Btw, the group's website doesn't reveal who is behind it, but they include: PepsiCo, Viacom, Kellogg's, General Mills, Time Warner, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, and the Association of National Advertisers.
Today nearly 40 leading First Amendment scholars and professors took on the food marketing industry, with letters sent to FTC, FDA (and also the White House) saying that they First Amendment argument (used by the Anita Dunn front group) is baseless. A copy of the letter can be found here.
The food industry, ad and media lobby especially don't want any protections for teens, including for digital marketing. But anyone following the industry knows these companies have launched sophisticated campaigns targeting teens for foods and beverages linked to the youth obesity crisis (in the US and globally, btw). Marketers should be willing to embrace thoughtful scientific based guidelines designed to promote the health of young people, and protect the interests of parents and caregivers (who have to pay for their healthcare, btw, when they develop obesity related illnesses). The food, ad and media lobby needs to be more responsible. They also need to do a better job with the facts. They are focused on short-term tactics--but have much to lose--including how people think about their brands on the social web.