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Where A Junk Food Ban On Kids' TV Advertising Will Lead Us

Jun 7, 2012 by Wayne Friedman

TV ad buyers will need to hire a nutritionist.

This will be especially true if Disney’s ban on junk food advertising to kids spills over to other networks like Nickelodeon, its main competitor.

To be fair, many kids’ networks have already spent years trying to scale back informally on those high-caloric advertisers. In theory, no one needs to be told.

Nickelodeon, the big Viacom kids’ cable network, is already having difficulties with mysteriously steep ratings drops of 15% or more. Now, some believe it will be pressured to follow Disney in pushing some all-important food advertisers out of the picture.

Disney is laying out specific details for marketers. For example, food products that want to advertise need to contain a maximum of 130 calories per ounce (but this rises to 200 calories for some higher-fiber breakfast cereals), and juice drinks should contain a lot more fruit juice and a lot less sugar.

While Disney seems to be making a bold stand, look at these meager numbers from Kantar Media: Just $7.2 million a year is spent by junk food advertisers on two Disney networks – Disney XD, the young boys-oriented channel, and ABC’s kids’ programming on Saturday mornings.

The bigger Disney Channel doesn’t really take advertising, though it does have “sponsorships.” Disney XD is a smaller network, but a lot of its advertising comes from direct response. So most of the junk-food cuts will come at the hands of the programming that runs Saturday mornings on ABC. Still, Disney believes whatever it loses can be made up with new healthier-minded kids’ advertisers.

Question is: What’s next? Are certain kids’ clothing, toys and other products taboo? Does kids’ apparel breathe properly, and is it environmentally friendly? Do toys advertised on TV hinder creativity?

You want to protect kids really well? Ban all advertising to them until they are 18 years old. But don’t worry marketers. There are always other ways to influence the purchasing of kids and their parents, such as mobile and other digital areas.

Of course there is an even easier way to get healthier kids. Parents should be crazy-strict for as long as possible about what type of food they bring into their homes. (Teenagers will find ways, but it’s harder for younger kids).

Does this sound tough for overworked parents and annoying kids? Yep.

And it’s not just that kind of consumption. Advertising exposure -- on refrigerator shelves -- starts in the home.

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