Statement from Elaine Kolish, VP & Director, CFBAI, and Wayne Keeley, VP & Director, CARU On “How Television Fast Food Marketing Aimed at Children Compares with Adult Advertisements”

August 30, 2013
Both CFBAI and CARU extensively monitor food advertising directed to children for compliance with each program, and take action and publicly report when non-compliance is found. Both Kolish and Keeley stated that, ”mere differences in the content of quick serve restaurant ads directed to adults and children by themselves don’t add up to failures to meet their commitments to CFBAI and CARU, as the authors of this new report suggest. Historically, advertising directed to children for all products varies significantly from advertising directed to adults, just as the programs on which the ads appear vary greatly depending on whether it is children, family or adult programming. So it is no surprise that the authors of this report find differences in ad content and themes depending on whether the ad is directed to adults or children.”

“Both McDonald’s and Burger King have honored their commitments to CFBAI,” according to director Kolish. “Our independent monitoring shows that, as promised, both have limited their child-directed advertising to meals meeting meaningful nutrition criteria. Both also have made improvements in the kid’s meals they advertise to children compared to 2006, before CFBAI was launched.”

In its release on its December 2012 Report on Food Marketing to Children, the FTC reported that “QSR food, or fast food, marketed to both children and teens was lower in calories, sodium, sugar, and saturated fat in 2009 than in 2006.” The FTC also reported that “Pledge companies participating in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (a self-regulatory program run by the Council of Better Business Bureaus) marketed more nutritious products to children than restaurants that did not participate in this self-regulatory program.” (emphasis in original).

According to director Keeley, “both McDonald’s and Burger King always have been strong supporters of self-regulation and are committed to adhering to CARU’s guidelines that are designed to ensure that child-directed advertising is truthful, accurate and appropriate.” Keeley noted that “one of those guidelines states that, ‘Since children have difficulty distinguishing product from premium, advertising that contains a premium message should focus the child’s attention primarily on the product and make the premium message clearly secondary.’”

Keeley said that, “from time to time, CARU has opened inquiries with both companies (as well as others) regarding this guidance, and concluded that certain ads insufficiently focused on the food being advertised in favor of the premiums. He added, “both companies always have respected CARU’s recommendations by discontinuing the challenged ads, and pledging to take into account CARU’s recommendations in their future advertising.” Keeley explained that, “CARU does not require that a specific number of frames be focused on the food versus the premium and certainly the fact that ads directed to adults may show food images in a larger size than a child-directed ad is not dispositive. The content of the entire ad and
net impression guide CARU’s determinations.”