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Doctors: Stop advertising to kids

Lisa Napoli Dec 4, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: The Brits are ahead of us in the fight against childhood obesity. It didn’t get much press here in the States, but a couple weeks ago the land of fish and chips banned television ads for junk-food aimed at kids. That made the UK one of the latest European countries to take that step. Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics asked for Congressional help to get a similar ban passed here. Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli has more.

LISA NAPOLI: For years the nation’s advertisers have been locked in a battle with children’s advocates: The industry wants to keep regulating itself. While the advocates periodically ask for governmental restrictions.

Besides an outright ban on junk-food ads, pediatricians called on Congress today to cut in half the number of TV commercials aired on kids’ shows. But television isn’t the only concern:

SUSAN LINN: Commercials are just so 20th century.

Susan Linn is co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. She says new media like interactive TV and games require new rules and new vigilance.

LINN: The marketing industry isn’t thinking just about commercials anymore. What they’re thinking about is how to insinuate their brands into every aspect of children’s lives.

Linn and others say that branding frenzy contributes to other childhood problems like anorexia and early sexual activity. They’re also asking for limits on how erectile dysfunction drugs and alcohol are marketed.

But Jim Davidson of the Alliance for American Advertising says his industry’s already on the case.

JIM DAVIDSON: Ten of the top advertisers in the country have announced a whole set of programs to change the way they advertise to kids.

Davidson says marketers are pledging, among other things, to increase ads that promote healthy lifestyles. But ad industry critics say that’s just spin to keep the government from getting involved. And they point to recent studies that show advertising contributes to childhood obesity.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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