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Council of Better Business Bureaus
New Food, Beverage Initiative to Focus Kids' Ads on Healthy Choices; Revised Guidelines Strengthen CARU's Guidance to Food Advertisers
November 14, 2006

The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) and the National Advertising Review Council (NARC) today announced two significant developments in the self-regulation of advertising directed to children under 12:

First is the establishment of the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (Initiative), a voluntary self-regulation program with 10 of the largest food and beverage companies as charter participants. The Initiative is designed to shift the mix of advertising messaging to children to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles. Charter participants are Cadbury Schweppes USA; Campbell Soup Company; The Coca-Cola Company; General Mills, Inc.; The Hershey Company; Kellogg Company; Kraft Foods Inc.; McDonald's; PepsiCo, Inc. and Unilever. It is estimated that these companies account for more than two-thirds of children's food and beverage television advertising expenditures.

Second is the approval of significant revisions to the Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children's Advertising. The revised Guidelines strengthen the ability of the CBBB's Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU), which monitors all advertising directed to children under 12, to provide guidance and oversight to all industry sectors.

Both the Initiative and the revisions to the Guidelines evolved from the in-depth review of the Guidelines undertaken by NARC and led by Joan Z. (Jodie) Bernstein, a former director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

"These are important developments. The Initiative represents an innovative effort to promote healthier dietary choices and lifestyles to children. I commend these 10 companies for coming together in a meaningful new program that will have strong oversight," Ms. Bernstein said. "In addition, the revised Guidelines will assist CARU to continue to hold all advertising to children under 12 to high standards. Together, these efforts are a great step forward."

Under the terms of the Initiative, participating companies commit to:

  • Devote at least half their advertising directed to children on television, radio, print and Internet to promote healthier dietary choices and/or to messages that encourage good nutrition or healthy lifestyles.
  • Limit products shown in interactive games to healthier dietary choices, or incorporate healthy lifestyle messages into the games.
  • Not advertise food or beverage products in elementary schools.
  • Not engage in food and beverage product placement in editorial and entertainment content.
  • Reduce the use of third-party licensed characters in advertising that does not meet the Initiative's product or messaging criteria.

Each participating company will submit to the CBBB a commitment, tailored to the company's product portfolio, that complies with the principles of the Initiative. Company commitments that identify better-for-you dietary choices must be consistent with established scientific and/or government standards. The CBBB expects the program to be up and running within the next six to nine months.

"Self-regulation works best when backed by strong and effective accountability," said Steven J. Cole, CBBB President and CEO. "We will closely monitor adherence to the participant commitments. This program is an excellent example of how voluntary self-regulation and the BBB advance marketplace trust."

C. Lee Peeler, Executive Vice President, Advertising Self-Regulation, CBBB, and President and CEO, NARC, will lead the Initiative. The Initiative will be further supported by experts in nutrition and media research. Program staff will monitor companies' compliance with their commitments and will maintain a publicly accessible Website that details their findings.

"We hope the experience we gain implementing the Initiative will provide a basis for enhancing the program and expanding it to other companies across the food and beverage industry," said NARC Board Chairman Nancy Wiese, an Association of National Advertisers Board member and the Vice President, Worldwide Brand Marketing/Advertising at Xerox. "We also plan to coordinate this effort with the Ad Council's Coalition for Healthy Children, which is simultaneously developing a consistent set of good nutrition and healthy lifestyle messages."

The Guidelines Review process brought together more than 40 leading children's advertisers across industry sectors - broad participation that demonstrates the children's advertising industry's strong support for self-regulation. The revised CARU Guidelines have been expanded to:

  • Provide new authorization for CARU to take action on advertising targeted to children that is "unfair," in addition to advertising that is misleading.
  • Specifically address "blurring," or advertising that obscures the line between editorial content and advertising messages. A new provision, which applies across all media, prohibits advertising that "blurs the distinction between advertising and program/editorial content in ways that would be misleading to children."
  • Specifically address the use of commercial messages in interactive games, sometimes referred to as advergaming. The revised Guidelines require that "if an advertiser integrates a commercial message into the content of a game or activity, then the advertiser should make clear, in a manner that will be easily understood by the targeted audience, that it is an advertisement."

The revised Guidelines also strengthen CARU's guidance to food advertisers in a number of areas, such as clarifying that children's food advertising should not depict over-consumption or discourage or disparage healthy lifestyle or healthy dietary choices.

Additionally, Ms. Wiese said, "the Guidelines review process has identified areas that require continued review. The NARC Board has requested further discussion of the issues of product placement in children's programming and the advertising of telephone services to children."

To access a copy of the revised CARU Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children's Advertising, please visit www.CARU.org

For more information about Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, please visit www.cbbb.org/initiative.

About the CBBB
Founded in 1970, the CBBB is the national organization for the Better Business Bureau system. The BBB system is dedicated to fostering trust between businesses and consumers in both the traditional and online marketplace. The first BBB was founded in 1912 - today, the BBB system is comprised of 129 local Better Business Bureaus (BBBs) across the US and Canada, and serves millions of consumers, nearly 400,000 small and medium business members, and hundreds of national and multi-national corporations based in North America. The BBB system has grown to become the most trusted name and recognized advocate for promoting ethical business and advertising practices, providing more than 90 million instances of service to consumers and businesses in 2005. For more information on the BBB system, visit www.bbb.org.

About NARC
The National Advertising Review Council (NARC) was formed in 1971 by the CBBB, the Association of National Advertisers, Inc. (ANA), the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Inc. (AAAA), and the American Advertising Federation, Inc. (AAF). Its purpose is to foster truth and accuracy in national advertising through voluntary self-regulation. NARC is the body that establishes the policies and procedures for the CBBB's National Advertising Division (NAD) and Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU), as well as for the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).NAD and CARU are the investigative arms of the advertising industry's voluntary self-regulation program. Their casework results from competitive challenges from other advertisers, and also from self-monitoring traditional and new media. The National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appeals body, is a peer group from which ad-hoc panels are selected to adjudicate those cases that are not resolved at the NAD/CARU level. This unique, self-regulatory system is funded entirely by the business community; CARU is financed by the children's advertising industry, while NAD/NARC/NARB's sole source of funding is derived from membership fees paid to the CBBB. For more information about advertising self regulation, please visit www.narcpartners.org.