Posts Tagged ‘food marketing’
Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Today, the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law, is releasing the issue brief Copycat Snacks in Schools on the food industry’s recent push to market popular junk food brands in schools. As noted in today’s New York Times story by Michael Moss entitled “The Domino’s Smart Slice Goes To School,” PHAI has called upon the USDA to address branded junk food marketing in schools. Starting July 1, 2014, all foods sold outside of the National School Lunch Program, such as food from vending machines and school stores, will have to meet United States Department of Agriculture “Smart Snacks” nutrition criteria. Not wanting to lose an in-school marketing opportunity, major food companies like PepsiCo are producing reformulated versions of popular junk foods like Cheetos® and Doritos® that meet the Smart Snacks criteria, but use the same brand names, logos and spokescharacters as are used to market traditional junk food.
For example, PepsiCo produces and markets to school food service directors a product called Cheetos® Flamin’ Hot Puffs Reduced Fat. This product meets the USDA Smart Snack guidelines, but it is not widely available for retail purchase outside of schools. Instead, PepsiCo offers Cheetos® Flamin’ Hot Puffs to the broader public. As you can see below, the product packaging is almost identical.
Copycat snacks like reduced fat versions of Cheetos® products are not widely available for purchase outside of schools and are clearly designed to co-market traditional junk food to children in school. The issue brief describes copycat snacks, how they undermine nutrition education efforts, and what can be done to stop the sale and marketing of these products in schools.
Thursday, December 19th, 2013
December 19, 2013
The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) at Northeastern University School of Law, along with our partners at the Center for Digital Democracy and Berkeley Media Studies Group, today releases State Law Approaches to Address Digital Food Marketing to Youth. It is a first-of-its kind resource that provides an evidence base and action steps grounded in state law. State attorneys general and other stakeholders in children’s health and privacy can use it to put a stop to troubling digital marketing practices that deceive youth and their parents.
In addition to clear explanations of how digital marketing works and why it poses privacy and health risks to youth, key legal issues for state regulators are explored. These issues include personal jurisdiction over out-of-state food and beverage marketing and media companies; the interplay of federal and state laws regulating mobile marketing; and the application of state promotions laws to child consumers.
Key findings include:
- Research demonstrates that digital marketing is harder for children to identify than traditional television advertising, heightening the need for regulatory oversight.
- Nickelodeon, the biggest source of food ads seen by youth, has augmented its media empire through websites, mobile apps and programming that imports content from a popular YouTube channel. All of its digital platforms are ad-supported creating new opportunities for food and beverage companies to target youth.
- Digital campaigns are seamlessly woven into food packaging allowing marketers to target youth in supermarkets, convenience stores and fast food restaurants. Packaging often directs youth to digital marketing on mobile devices or online. State regulators have jurisdiction over unfair and deceptive marketing on food packages sold to consumers in their states.
- Mobile marketing elements are integrated into food and beverage campaigns. The legal landscape for state oversight of mobile marketing includes federal and state SPAM and telemarketing laws, and the emerging regulation of geolocation tactics.
- States are authorized to protect child privacy under federal law and have successfully done so, but teens are not covered by child privacy laws. State attorneys general can fill the teen privacy gap using their general consumer protection authority to ensure that company promises to protect privacy are honored and that teens are not duped into sharing personal information.
- Facebook remains the dominant social media platform for teens. Teens growing use of social media has resulted in them being less privacy savvy. Food companies exploit this by prompting teens to login to their websites and participate in promotions via Facebook thereby granting marketers access to vast amounts of personal information.
- Digital sweepstakes and contests are in widespread use by the food industry with children as young as 6 years old. Despite repeated enforcement actions by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (a self-regulatory body); food companies continue to conduct digital promotions with children that exploit their inability to understand that a free means of entry exists or their odds of winning a prize. State attorney general action is needed to augment these self-regulatory efforts to protect children from predatory promotions.
Senior Staff Attorney, Cara Wilking, who was lead author of the report, noted that, “state attorneys general are in a unique position to leverage state law approaches to stop unfair, deceptive, or otherwise illegal digital marketing of unhealthy foods to our youngest and most vulnerable consumers.”
PHAI’s Executive Director, Mark Gottlieb, added, “there is a general failure to understand the disturbing marketing practices that are becoming commonplace in the digital marketing world. This report goes a long way toward closing the knowledge gap between those using powerful technology to sell junk to kids and those who have the responsibility to protect them.”
- Executive Summary
- Why Digital Marketing Is Different
- Packaging: Digital Marketing at the Moment of Truth
- Personal Jurisdiction
- Mobile Food & Beverage Marketing
- Facebook Advertising
- Incentives-Based Interactive Food & Beverage Marketing
- Appendix: State Law Profiles
Support for State Law Approaches to Address Digital Food Marketing to Youth was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundations Healthy Eating Research Program (#69293).
Tuesday, September 17th, 2013
Michele Simon is a public health lawyer specializing in industry marketing and lobbying tactics. She is the author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back, and president of Eat Drink Politics, an industry watchdog consulting business.
Ms. Simon asks PHAI’s senior staff attorney, Cara Wilking, about deceptive food marketing to kids, concerns about food industry self-regulation of marketing practices, technical assistance we provide, and what PHAI and lawyers like Cara can contribute to the good food movement.
Access the interview here.
Thursday, August 29th, 2013
In response to a recent study finding that nationally televised fast food television advertisements to children by McDonald’s and Burger King from 2009-2010 focused primarily on toys, movie tie-ins and branding, CARU Director Wayne Keeley stated that “[b]oth companies have always respected CARU’s recommendations by discontinuing the challenged ads, and pledged to take into account CARU’s recommendations in their future advertising,” and went on to note that there haven’t been any recent cases involving either of the two companies.
A look at CARU case reports tells a different story. Since 2005, McDonald’s Corporation has been cited by CARU six times for violations of its premium guideline. Just one of these cases, from Sept 2012, was decided in McDonald’s favor. The most recent CARU case against the company in December 2012 found the premium guideline had been violated. Each time McDonald’s pledged to take CARU guidelines into consideration in future advertisements. Burger King also was found to have violated CARU’s premium guideline in 2011.
New study finds McDonald’s and Burger King responsible for 99% of fast-food television ads for kids, suggests industry’s efforts to self-regulate its marketing practices are ineffective
Wednesday, August 28th, 2013
Fast-food companies emphasize toy giveaways and movie tie-ins rather than food products when marketing to kids on television, which suggests that industry is not abiding by its self-regulatory pledges for child-directed marketing, according to a study co-authored by the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law. The study, “How Television Fast Food Marketing Aimed at Children Compares with Adult Advertisements,” is published in PLOS ONE and found that among ads for children’s meals, toy giveaways appeared in 69 percent of ads and movie tie-ins were used in 55 percent of ads.
“Fast-food companies use free toys and popular movies to appeal to kids and their ads are much more focused on promotions, brands, and logos—not on the food,” said James Sargent, Professor of Pediatrics at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the lead author of the study. “These are techniques that the companies’ own self-regulatory body calls potentially misleading and it’s a clear sign that they’re not living up to their pledges about marketing to kids.”
Sargent and his colleagues examined all nationally televised ads for children’s meals by leading fast-food restaurants for one year, from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. They compared ads for kids with ads for adults from the same companies to assess whether self-regulatory pledges for food marketing to children had been implemented.
Key findings include:
- Nearly all (99%) of the ads that aired during the study period were attributable to McDonald’s (70%) and Burger King (29%).
- McDonald’s had the strongest emphasis on the children’s market, with 40% of its 44,062 ads aimed at kids, compared to 21% of 37,210 aired ads for Burger King.
- Seventy-nine percent of the fast-food ads aimed at kids aired on only four channels: Cartoon Network (32.3%), Nickelodeon (18.3%), Disney XD (16.2%), and Nicktoons (12.4%).
- Compared with fast food ads for adults, kids ads emphasized branding and the food images were smaller. For example:
- Images of food packaging were present in 88 percent of ads directed at kids and 23 percent of ads for adults.
- A street view of the restaurant appeared in 41 percent of ads directed at kids and 12 percent of ads for adults.
- Food images averaged 20 percent of the screen diagonal in kids’ ads, but 45 percent of the screen diagonal in adult ads.
Leaders of the food and beverage industry have publicly recognized the need to reform marketing practices targeting children. In 2006, the Council of Better Business Bureaus launched the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), a voluntary pledge by major U.S. food manufacturers to advertise only healthier products to young children. McDonald’s and Burger King participate in the CFBAI. Both companies also have pledged to abide by marketing guidelines set by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit, which include a provision stating that food—not toys or other promotions—should be the primary focus of ads directed at kids.
“This study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that there’s a big gap between what industry has promised and what they’re actually doing when it comes to marketing to kids,” said Cara Wilking, J.D. of the Public Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law. “There comes a point when intervention by a regulatory body like the Federal Trade Commission or state Attorneys General is needed to address self-regulatory failures. These findings suggest we’ve reached it with respect to fast food marketing to kids.”
A recent report by the Federal Trade Commission found that among all U.S. food and beverage companies, fast-food companies spent the most on marketing directed at youths ages 2 to 17—more than $714 million in 2009. The report also found that fast-food companies have dramatically increased their spending on television ads and new media targeting kids ages 2 to 11. Further analysis of that report shows while some fast-food restaurants slightly improved the nutritional quality of kids’ meals, the number of child-directed television ads for other higher-calorie meals and menu items more than doubled from 2006 to 2009.
Thursday, July 18th, 2013
by Cara Wilking, J.D.
Seeking to capitalize on the public’s insatiable appetite for Youtube stunt videos, Kraft Foods has teamed up with Rob Dyrdek, the host of MTV’s Ridiculousness, to market its recently released Lunchables Uploaded line of lunch kits. Marketed to parents as a way to “Give them more of what they love,” Lunchables Uploaded kits contain larger portion sizes. In keeping with the product name, Kraft is urging teens to upload videos to be featured on the Lunchables Uploaded website. Kraft produced a series of challenge videos that are emblematic of the types of videos the company is interested in receiving as well as a series of stunt videos featuring Mr. Dyrdek and Lunchables Uploaded products.
In the “Terms and Conditions” for its solicitation of user-generated content, Kraft states that entrants must be at least 13 years old to participate and that no prizes will be awarded (other than having a video featured on the website). Eligible participants are told “[w]e [Kraft] made these guidelines so that everyone can have a good time. We don’t want you to break the guidelines. We also don’t want you to hurt yourself while making an Upload. If you do break the guidelines or hurt yourself, it’s your responsibility….” A look at the Kraft-produced challenges and the content it’s featuring on its Lunchables Uploaded website reveals that the company is not committed to following its own terms and conditions with regard to safety.
In the “Paper Airplane” challenge, Mr. Dyrdek is first shown throwing a traditional paper airplane inside. He then tells viewers, “You could do it like that. Or, you could upload your plane game.” He is then shown throwing a giant paper airplane off of the top of a building. The video begins by warning viewers not to take unnecessary risks and has over 90,000 views on Youtube.
Despite its warning not to engage in unnecessary risks, Kraft is featuring a user-generated video of a man standing on a pitched roof holding large paper airplanes on its Lunchables Uploaded website.
Mr. Dyrdek is also featured in a Lunchables Uploaded skateboard challenge. In the beginning of the video he is shown skateboarding without any safety gear–no helmet, wrist or knee pads. He is then shown riding a giant skateboard high off of the ground with no helmet on.
The giant skateboard is comical and Mr. Dyrdek is a professional who was assisted by a production team. Kraft, however,is featuring several videos and still photos of young people skateboarding wearing no safety equipment on its youth-targeted Lunchables Uploaded website.
This is in stark contrast to the depiction of a helmeted child on Krafts adult-targeted webpage for Lunchables Uploaded.
While the terms and conditions on the Lunchables Uploaded website use refreshingly direct language for a legal disclaimer, “[w]e [Kraft] don’t want you to hurt yourself while making an Upload,” the challenge videos and the content they are featuring on the website encourage and reward risky behavior. When teens upload a video or photo, Kraft receives the right to use the content for marketing purposes. When Kraft features the content on its website it then becomes responsible for the content and laws relevant to marketing, including consumer protection laws, must be complied with. The Federal Trade Commission has a history of taking enforcement action when advertisements depict children engaging in risky behavior. In light of the Kraft Uploaded campaign, it might be wise to consider expanding protections for older kids.
Friday, March 8th, 2013
Food companies used viral digital marketing tactics, such as “tell-a-friend” web campaigns, to induce children to share e-mail addresses of their friends and spread brand advertising of unhealthy foods among their peers. Even very young children are targeted by these campaigns, which may be considered unfair and deceptive and in violation of state consumer protection laws.
PHAI has prepared a legal issue brief on this topic for state attorneys general as well as stakeholders in children’s health and privacy. The brief explains the tactics that are used and suggests ways that they can be addressed, particularly under state law.
This work was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Eating Research Program (#69293).
Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
[Adapted from Richard A. Daynard’s presentation to the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Association of American Law Schools’ Agriculture and Food Law section, January 5, 2013.]
Soda consumption is a major contributor to adolescent obesity.1 Fortunately, soda consumption has been declining recently,2 presumably as a result of adverse media attention and policy initiatives like the ban on most sugar-sweetened beverages in schools.
PepsiCo has decided to do something about that, and has designed its “Live for Now” campaign in an effort to reverse the decline in teenage soda consumption. The campaign takes advantage of known adolescent vulnerabilities which result from the facts that the inhibitory structures of their brains are not fully developed, hormonal changes further reduce inhibitions while lowering self-esteem, and their psychosocial development focuses on identity formation and social acceptance.3 As a result they tend to be impulsive, thrill-seeking, and “now”-oriented. While they may rationally balance perceived risks and benefits, doing so does not necessarily inure to their best long-term interests.
Pepsi’s Live for Now campaign, like the infamous Joe Camel campaign used by R.J. Reynolds, is designed to prey upon these adolescent vulnerabilities in an effort to reverse declining consumption trends as well as to market a particular product.
Unlike cigarette advertisers, Pepsi is free to take its campaign to the airwaves. It will do so in a big way when it will sponsor the Superbowl Halftime Show featuring Beyoncé, who recently entered into a $50 million endorsement deal with PepsiCo.
The Federal Trade Commission could bring an enforcement action under its unfairness jurisdiction, and state attorneys general and private attorneys could seek injunctive relief under state consumer protection laws.
But little is likely to happen unless public outrage is focused on this campaign, and unless regulators and judges learn more about the biological and developmental underpinnings of faulty adolescent decision-making.
1. Ludwig DS, Peterson KE, Gortmaker SL. Relation between consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks and childhood obesity: a prospective, observational analysis. Lancet 2001; 357: 505–508.
2. Strom, S. (2012). “Soda Makers Scramble to Fill Void as Sales Drop.” The New York Times, May 15, 2012.
3. Pechman, Cornelia, Linda Levine, Sandra Loughlin, and Frances Leslie (2005), “Impulsive and Self-Conscious: Adolescents’ Vulnerability to Advertising and Promotion,” Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 24 (Fall), 202-221.
Research assistance by Brendan Burke and Cara Wilking
Support for this research was provided, in part, by the National Cancer Institute (2R01CA087571).
Nestlé’s nutritional advice recommends avoiding Kraft Lunchables, but Nestlé puts its candy in Lunchables anyway
Thursday, September 6th, 2012
This week, as millions of American children return to classrooms and lunchrooms, moms and dads are trying to sort out which pre-made food products are conducive to learning and a healthy diet and which are flashy, sophisticated packages of junk food.
Nestlé, which deems itself “the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company” has teamed up with Kraft Foods to sell three of its candy brands (Nestlé, Crunch, Nerds, and Kit Kat) in Kraft’s Lunchables. Nestle candy is included in “Lunchables with Juice” varieties containing “Light Bologna and American Cracker Stacker,” “Pizza with Pepperoni made with Pork, Chicken and Beef,” and “Nachos, Cheese Dip and Salsa.” A picture of Nestlé candy is featured prominently on Lunchables product packaging:
The inclusion of Nestlé candy in these products is perplexing because Nestlé maintains a health and nutrition-focused website for parents called NestleFamily.com where it proffers tips for packing healthy school lunches by Dr. Christine Wood. A look at four of Nestlé’s healthy lunch tips reveals that Kraft Lunchables products with Nestlé candy fall short.
The first tip: “Pack 100% juice boxes.”
- Nestlé candy is included in three varieties of Lunchables that contain either Capri Sun juice drink pouches sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and juice concentrate or a 30-calorie Capri Sun flavored water sweetened with sucralose and high fructose corn syrup.
Tip two: “Try to limit the frequency of using processed luncheon meats because of the nitrates in them. (Nitrates are preservatives found in many cooked and cured meats and should be given sparingly to young children.)”
- Nestlé candy is included in Lunchables that contain processed meats. Those meats are: Pepperoni Slices (PEPPERONI MADE WITH PORK, CHICKEN AND BEEF–BHA, BHT AND CITRIC ACID ADDED TO HELP PROTECT FLAVOR: PORK, MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN, BEEF, SALT, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF PORK STOCK, SPICES, DEXTROSE, LACTIC ACID STARTER CULTURE, OLEORESIN OF PAPRIKA, FLAVORING, SODIUM ASCORBATE, SODIUM NITRITE, BHA, BHT, CITRIC ACID) and; “Light Bologna”( BOLOGNA MADE WITH CHICKEN & PORK: MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN, WATER, PORK, CORN SYRUP, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2% OF SALT, POTASSIUM LACTATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SODIUM DIACETATE, SODIUM ASCORBATE, FLAVOR, SODIUM NITRITE, EXTRACTIVES OF PAPRIKA, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, SUGAR, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE).
Tip three: “Your kids will be more interested in healthy eating if they get involved in the preparation.”
- Assembled in a factory far away from home, kids could not be less involved in the preparation of Lunchables.
Tip four: Use fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Lunchables with Light Bologna and American Cracker Stacker contains no fruits or vegetables other than the fruit juice concentrate contained in the Capri Sun juice pouch. The other two Lunchables lines with Nestlé candy include salsa or pizza sauce. Neither these nor the other lines of Lunchables feature fresh produce.
NestleFamily.com says “Packing a healthy lunch for your kids can be a challenge!” It sure can. Especially when food manufacturers talk healthy foods and walk junk.
PHAI joins the Center for Digital Democracy and others in complaint to FTC over children’s websites’ “Tell-A-Friend” tactics
Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012
Today the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston has joined a coalition of children’s, health, privacy and consumer advocacy organizations in a complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission against several children’s websites for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The offending children’s websites use a “Tell-A-Friend” feature to induce children to provide e-mail addresses of their peers. The websites involved include McDonald’s HappyMeal.com, General Mills’ ReesesPuffs.com and TrixWorld.com, Doctor’s Associates’ SubwayKids.com, Viacom’s Nick.com, and Turner Broadcasting’s CartoonNetwork.com.
The Tell-A-Friend tactic uses a game or other child-targeted activity as a way to engage children in an immersive marketing experience and then directs users to share the activity with friends by entering multiple e-mail addresses. Those children will receive an e-mail that may or may not appear to be from their friend urging them to go to a child-targeted marketing website. This viral marketing tactic creates and reinforces brand awareness providing value to the advertiser. All of this occurs without prompts for any parental consent and, in McDonald’s case, may involve distributing a photograph of the child taken by webcam to recipients of the e-mail message.
Mark Gottlieb, Executive Director of PHAI, noted that, “COPPA was enacted by Congress to protect children under 13 from divulging any personal information to commercial interests on the Internet without the consent of a parent. By inducing young kids to provide the e-mail addresses of their peers, the companies involved here are certainly violating the spirit of COPPA and, it would appear, the letter of the law as well through these “Tell-A-Friend” practices. This is something that state attorneys general could also investigate under their consumer protection authority because these tactics are unfair and deceptive.”
In addition to the Center for Digital Democracy which has published the complaints on its website, PHAI was joined by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Berkeley Media Studies Group, Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood, Center for Media Justice, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Children Now, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, ChangeLab Solutions, Global Action Project, Media Literacy Project, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Public Citizen, and the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University.