Kids target of $1.6 billion in food ads

August 5, 2008

The nation’s largest food and beverage companies spent about $1.6 billion* in 2006 marketing their products – especially carbonated drinks – to children, according to a Federal Trade Commission report.

The commission studied spending directed at children ages 2-17. Spending on soda marketing came to $492 million, with the vast majority of that spending directed toward adolescents. Restaurants reported spending close to $294 million, which was divided about evenly between children and adolescents. For cereals, companies spent about $237 million with the vast majority of that amount targeted to children under age 12.

The 44 companies reviewed spread their marketing across all segments of the media, the commission found. Television ads provide a theme that usually carried over to packaging and displays in stores, and to the Internet where entry of a code on the package allowed them to participate in games or contests with prizes.

For example, Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean were prominently linked to many food products last year. Companies created limited edition snacks, cereals, waffles and candy based on the movies. They offered prizes on the Internet to buyers of those products that ranged from video games to trips to Disney to a $1 million reward for the capture of villain Lex Luther.

“The Internet – though far less costly than television – has become a major marketing tool of food companies that target children and adolescents, with more than two-thirds of the 44 companies reporting online, youth-directed activities,” the commission report said.

*This estimate was far below where other estimates had been, notably the $10 billion figure that the Institute of Medicine has been using. (The F.T.C. said it excluded nonfood marketing and advertising that it did not see as aimed at children, like coupons.)

The report:

and the “good news” spin…


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