NEW YORK — Ten food and beverage manufacturers pledged their commitment to the voluntary Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. Children's ads will more frequently contain messages about healthy dietary choices and lifestyles as a result.
Cadbury Schweppes USA, Campbell Soup Co., The Coca-Cola Co., General Mills, The Hershey Co., Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods, McDonald's, PepsiCo and Unilever are among the participants. The plan was announced earlier this month by the National Advertising Review Council here and the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Arlington, Va.
In addition to developing an individual commitment, consistent with a core set of principles, participating companies will devote 50% of all ads directed to children under 12 to products representing healthy dietary choices and/or healthy lifestyle messages.
“This is really a ground-breaking initiative committed to by companies producing more than two-thirds of the ads that kids see,” said C. Lee Peeler, executive vice president of advertising self-regulation for the CBBB, and chief executive officer of NARC.
CBBB and NARC also announced revisions to the Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children's Advertising that could affect all manufacturers. The revisions provide new authorization for the CBBB's Children's Advertising Review Unit — which monitors ads directed to children under 12 — to take action against children's ads that blur the distinction between advertisements and program/editorial content in ways that are misleading to children. The revisions also require that all advertisers make clear, in a manner understood by children, that commercial messages added to the content of games or activities, are advertisements.
Meanwhile, within the next six to nine months, companies participating in the voluntary plan will establish and submit commitments to the CBBB that are tailored to the companies' product portfolios and comply with the initiative's principles. Dietary choices identified in the commitments must be consistent with established scientific and/or government standards.
“These pledges will be made public and monitored and enforced by an independent third party, the CBBB, with referral to the Federal Trade Commission in the event of noncompliance,” said Jodie Bernstein, former director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Participants have also committed to either limit products shown in interactive games to healthier dietary choices or to incorporate healthy lifestyle messages into these games.
Participants agreed not to advertise food or beverage products in elementary schools or engage in product placement in editorial and entertainment content.
They will also reduce the use of third-party licensed characters in advertising that doesn't meet the initiative's product or messaging criteria.
“Licensed characters can be used in ways that positively impact children's diet and activity level,” explained Bill Lamar, chief marketing officer, McDonald's. “But if one of our products doesn't meet the [nutritional] standards, then we wouldn't use licensed characters to advertise it. We haven't finalized how we'll work with our partners on that yet.”
Members have yet to determine if their involvement in the program will lead to product reformulations.
Mark Addox, CMO, General Mills, called attention to the nutritional value of the company's products. “In general, you'll find that our cereals are very low in calories; each serving is well below 175 calories,” he said. “All are whole grain and very nutrient-dense.”
Last year, General Mills launched its “Choose Breakfast” campaign, a nonbranded children's television health initiative that advertises the benefits of breakfast to children.
McDonald's plans to continue promoting its nutritious dietary choices.
“Our advertising has and will be focused on [healthier] foods like nuggets, apple dippers and milk,” Lamar said. “They meet almost any scientific guidelines of foods for kids.”