Whenever I complain to my mom about all the candy and junk food ads on TV, she says, “You watched TV when you were a kid and you turned out OK.”
Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. But what is for certain is that the bulk of my childhood TV watching came before the 1980s—when deregulation of the airwaves helped advertisers blur the line between programming and commercials and brought a flood of advertising to kids’ programming. Over the intervening years, the government has tried to get the genie back in the bottle with various measures, most of them pretty toothless.
But the growing hysteria over childhood obesity has, according to an article in the Dallas Morning News, led Congress to ask the Federal Trade Commission to require fast-food restaurants, as well as food and beverage manufacturers, to provide details on how they market to children and how much they spend on targeting kids.
Will information be power? After all, we already can guess a lot about marketing to kids (choose a popular character or movie and tie your high-sugar product to it) and how much companies spend on kid-directed marketing (a buttload).
Food and beverage manufacturers, perhaps sensing a change in which way the wind is blowing, pledged last week to promote healthier foods or lifestyles in at least half their ads. Emphasis (and cynical LOL-ing), mine.