There’s good news, bad news, and still more bad news for the TV industry in a new reportfrom the Federal Trade Commission revealing how marketers are changing the way they market food to children and teens. Which do you want to hear first? Okay, let’s start with the bad news. The study, a follow-up to a benchmark report by the FTC in 2008, compares food marketing spending aimed at youth ages 2-17 in 2006 with 2009, and it found that over that period TV ad spending declined 19.5% in the category. The still more bad news is that over the same period, food marketers boosted their spending on digital media by 50%. And in a way, that’s also the good news too. The reason is it will take some of the heat off of the television industry as the main culprit in childhood obesity and poor nutrition.
“The analysis suggests that industry self-regulation resulted in modest nutritional improvements from 2006 to 2009 within specific food categories heavily marketed to youth, such as cereals, drinks, and fast food kids’ meals,” the FTC said in a summary of the findings of the study, which was implemented at the request of Congress, which has also been contemplating potential legislation. So to the extent that the report shows the industry’s efforts at self-regulating itself -- especially vis a vis its use of television -- that should take some heat of the medium’s back.
But there is some other potentially bad news too, because the report also found that while food marketers have reduced their reliance of TV advertising, the TV industry has been trending in the opposite direction by increasing the amount of non-advertising tie-ins between food marketers and television programming.
“Cross-promotions linking foods with popular children’s movies and TV characters across all these marketing techniques increased from 80 children’s movies and TV shows in 2006 to 120 in 2009,” the FTC reported, singling out how, “TV characters like SpongeBob SquarePants, were used extensively in television advertising, on packaging, in online sweepstakes, and by other means, to promote kids’ meals, frozen desserts, candy, and many other foods to children.”
While the report doesn’t
make any explicit regulatory recommendations, it doesn’t exactly suggest a free pass for the TV industry either.