Nickelodeon prides itself on responsible TV programming for kids, but what about its marketing?Posted December 4th, 2012 by Margo Wootan and Kate Klimczak
Nickelodeon prides itself on responsible TV programming for kids, but what about its marketing? It’s time for Nickelodeon to take responsibility and dump the junk.
Tell Nickelodeon to dump the junk: bit.ly/dump-the-junk
Studies show that food marketing causes children to want more and eat more of the foods marketed to them. There is a ton of marketing aimed at kids—about $2 billion worth a year. The problem is virtually all the foods marketed to kids are unhealthy. If companies were marketing apples and carrots, there wouldn’t be a problem. But instead, companies mostly market sugary cereals, fast food, snack foods, and sugar-sweetened drinks.
Our kids live in a media saturated environment, where their desire for unhealthy food is cultivated through television, radio, Internet, magazines, product placement in movies and video games, schools, product packages, toys, clothing, and almost anywhere a logo or product image can be shown. Unfortunately, this crush of advertising has a very negative impact on our children’s health.
Research shows that food marketing is an important factor contributing to children’s poor diets and obesity. The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducted a thorough review of the science and concluded that food advertising affects children’s food choices, food purchase requests, diets, and health. Since the majority of foods marketed to children are of poor nutritional quality, the IOM concluded that marketing puts children’s health at risk.
This country has almost exclusively relied on self-regulation to address food marketing to children. Those efforts have been stepped up since 2006, as 16 food companies have pledged to scale back their marketing of unhealthy foods to children through the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI).
While there has been some progress, that progress is modest—and insufficient—given the high rates of childhood obesity. For example, in a study of Nickelodeon, the most popular children’s television station, ads for foods of poor nutritional quality decreased slightly, from about 90% to 80% of food ads from before self-regulation was in place to after the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative was implemented.
Key reasons why self-regulation is not working are that the nutrition standards are not nutritious enough, many food and beverage companies are not covering all their child-directed media, and the entertainment industry has been largely absent from the self-regulatory effort.
Only about a quarter of entertainment companies address food marketing to children, including Disney and Ion Media (Qubo). Earlier this year the Walt Disney Company announced plans to apply nutrition standards to advertisements through child-directed television, radio, and its websites, and update its nutrition standards for foods that can be advertised to children.
Notably, Nickelodeon lags behind those efforts. As the number one entertainment company for children, Nickelodeon has enormous influence over children’s food choices—and their lifelong habits and health. Unfortunately, Nickelodeon’s marketing remains out of balance, doing much more to promote unhealthy than healthy eating. A recent study by the Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity found that Nickelodeon accounts for almost a quarter of all food, beverage, and restaurant advertisements seen on TV by children ages 2 to 11.
Although Nickelodeon has taken some steps to limit the use of its characters for marketing some food products, promotes PSAs and partners with children’s groups, these efforts are far outweighed by the negative effects of Nickelodeon’s core marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods.
Today over 100 health organizations and experts sent Nickelodeon a letter urging the company to implement strong nutrition standards for all of the company’s food advertising and marketing to children, including all television advertising on Nickelodeon channels (including Nickelodeon, NickToons, TeenNick, and Nick, Jr.), company Internet sites, mobile platforms, and other places Nickelodeon reaches children.
If you believe that Nickelodeon has a responsibility to do right by our kids and stop advertising unhealthy food to them, please join our campaign and write to Nickelodeon urging it to adopt strong nutrition standards for advertisements and marketing through all its child-directed media.
Tell Nickelodeon to dump the junk! bit.ly/dump-the-junk
It’s time for Nickelodeon to take responsibility and dump the junk.