Advertising Fattening Kids' Foods Could Give Networks Financial Pains

High-fat kids' foods now could come with one interesting side effect--financial indigestion.

A major lawsuit is being threatened by The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, and two parents against the big kids' TV network, Nickelodeon, and major kids' food TV advertiser, Kellogg Co., for contributing to children's growing obesity problems. In Massachusetts, where the suit would be filed, consumer protection laws could trigger penalties in excess of $2 billion.

Parents in the lawsuit complain they are losing the battle with their children in their effort to get them to eat healthfully--that companies like Kellogg, by advertising on Nickelodeon, are poisoning little minds that think only about Pop Tarts.

One parent complained: "We enter the grocery store and see our beloved Nick characters plastered on all those junky snacks and cereals."



Ridding the world of this harsh kids' marketing activity means little. New high-tech marketing tools are always on the way. One day those TV kids' commercials could be holograms of Ho-Hos floating like butterflies across living rooms. Stopping them would mean holding up a stick of broccoli--like one does with a cross when fighting back vampires.

Little can be done about unhealthful food because too much of any one food can be characterized as unhealthful. Even too much water is dangerous, as medical journals have recently discovered, in studies that focus on over-drinking marathon runners. You might as well take your favorite box of Oreos to the backyard and shoot them up.

Nickelodeon feels your trans fat pain. The cable network has licensed a number of its characters-- SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer and characters from "Lazy Town"--for use on packages of Grimmway baby carrots and bags of Boskovich spinach. Concerned citizens say that's not enough. But their aim is mis-targeted.

It's not the supply that's the problem, it's the demand. Nickelodeon will gladly sell more TV advertising to spinach and carrot producers, if they have the money. But in order to do that, produce providers--and parents--will need to influence kids' cravings toward radicchio and away from Ring Dings.

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