Advertising to children


What follows is an edited extract from a bulletin put out by America’s Federal Trade Commission the week before Christmas.

The FTC announced the results of a comprehensive study of food and beverage industry marketing expenditures and activities. The study, A Review of Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents: Follow-Up Report gauges the progress industry has made since first launching self-regulatory efforts to promote healthier food choices to kids.

The report provides a picture of how food companies allocated $1.79 billion on marketing to youth ages 2-17 in 2009.

The FTC found that overall spending was down 19.5 percent from 2006, with most of that decrease coming from less spending on television ads to youth.  At the same time, food companies stepped up their spending to market to children and teens in new media, such as online, mobile, and viral marketing, by 50 percent.

It’s good to note that the industry has undertaken to promote healthier food and drink to children and young people. That’s not the main  point of this blog.

Call me old fashioned but in my book $1.79 billion is a lot of money. And that is being spent by only one class of companies: those selling food and drinks.

No reason in principle why companies should not promote their products and services to children and young people but such sums powerfully illustrate that businesses have a major interest in and want to reach the 2-17 market. It also explains why there needs to be rules surrounding how they might do that.

About John Carr

John Carr is one of the world's leading authorities on children's and young people's use of digital technologies. He is Senior Technical Adviser to Bangkok-based global NGO ECPAT International, Technical Adviser to the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, which is administered by Save the Children Italy and an Advisory Council Member of Beyond Borders (Canada). Amongst other things John is or has been an Adviser to the United Nations, ITU, the European Union, the Council of Europe and European Union Agency for Network and Information Security and is a former Executive Board Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. He is Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John has advised many of the world's largest internet companies on online child safety. In June, 2012, John was appointed a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This was renewed in 2018. More:
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