Saturday Morning Cartoons Were Invented to Market Junk Food to Kids


OK, not just junk food. Toys too. But as anyone growing up in the 70′s and 80′s remembers, those 3 hours in front of TV exposed kids to the worst types of foods for their health.

And today, kids are even more exposed to junk food advertising because of dedicated channels to kids content blast them with advertising 7 days a week. That’s why consumer advocacy groups have been trying to influence media companies to set standards for what products should be advertised.

But unfortunately, these are the brands and products that bring in the most revenue, as Marion Nestle describes in her blog Food Politics:

For some years now, the kids’ TV station Nickelodeon has been struggling to find an economically viable way to restrict marketing of the worst products.  But if Nickelodeon establishes commonly accepted nutrition standards for products it permits to be advertised, those standards will exclude most advertisers.  ”Economically viable” is what this is about.

The Center for Science in Public Interest is inviting the public to write to Nickelodeon and urge them to adopt strict standards.

As we reported earlier this year Disney managed to change its advertising standards, so there is hope. But in the meantime, we parents have our work cut out for us…

Do your kids nag you to buy junk food they’ve seen on TV or the Internet?

Get Fooducated

  • jaxx

    Not really. But my kids dont watch a lot of tv. If they did ask i just say no its junk and that ends it.

  • Catherine

    This is why my kids rarely watch tv. Actually it isn’t the reason but it is a nice side effect. Our environment should be set up for us to succeed not to have to protect ourselves from ‘free speech’ defended marketing at every turn. I also try and teach my kids about how they are being manipulated when targeted by marketing as obviously they are going to be exposed sometimes..

  • Robyn

    In my opinion, it’s the worst kind of limousine liberalism–the kind this site is becoming very good at–to decry television and something that bedevils children. Read Ellen Seiter’s SOLD SEPARATELY for a balanced account of how children’s advertising works in US culture and in the lives of children. Among other things, she points out that children (like adults!) use shared cultural knowledge (Spongebob, say, or Peter Rabbit) to build friendships and make connections. Those toys have social utility.

    As for the junkfood–anyone who studies advertising (and isn’t in the business of selling something!) will also tell you that studies show ads don’t work very well. They can influence you to try a particular brand of something you were already going to buy but not to buy something you were never going to buy (which is where Count Chocula and all of its friends are for Fooducate readers). The problem is among all the people who, *before* they saw the commercial, were going to buy junkfood and got talked into a particular kind.

    In short: mute the commercials if you think they’re annoying–that’s what I do–but the real problem precedes the ad.

  • malachite2

    Back to the 50′s & 60′s, I guess–when prime viewing times (when children might be watching) were regulated (by the FCC, I think) re: frequency of commercials, length, targets.

    But I forget, these days it’s all “industries can regulate themselves” “small gov’t is better”, regulations just hurt business/job creators . . . . And people have to beg/try to pressure corporations to get them to be less selfish & greedy (i.e., maximize ST profits, lay off as many costs as possible on the public).

  • HawkJRL

    Is Nickelodeon really struggling with a way to restrict marketing? I doubt it. Much of the actual programming(not talking commercials) is about selling something whether it be a celebrity or an item emblazoned with a show’s logo. I’m puzzled why Marion Nestle would be an apologist for the Viacom/Nickelodeon without offering evidence to support her statement.

    Anyone ever watch the Kid or Teen Choice Awards…those are just giant marketing tools .

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  • Prachi

    Rather than wage the battle on the idea of silencing the opposition why not run ads and other promotions on Nick and Disney promoting your point of view and let the public decide. This is the only fair way to find out what the public wants.