Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News
All you need to do is walk down the grocery store aisle with your kids and you observe firsthand the power of advertising. The kids see cartoon characters on a box of sugary treats, and they can't think about anything else except getting inside that box as soon as possible. Why, oh why, don't marketers use the same characters on a package of carrots?
While that won't likely happen any time soon, some help appears to be on the way. Today, First Lady Michelle Obama joined leaders of The Walt Disney Company to announce new standards for food advertising on Disney programming targeting kids -- the first such standards, according to Disney, ever introduced by a media company.
"This new initiative is truly a game changer for the health of our children," said Michelle Obama referring to the move by Disney. "When it comes to the ads they show and the food they sell, they are asking themselves one simple question -- is this good for our kids? And make no mistake about it, this is huge, that's why I'm here, it's huge."
We're talking advertising on all things Disney -- Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney and Disney-owned online destinations. The changes will mean that by 2015 all food and beverages advertised on Disney will be required to meet the company's nutrition guidelines.
"I am thrilled that over the next couple of years when our kids tune in to their favorite shows on Disney channels or they log onto to the Disney website, they will no longer be bombarded with unhealthy messages during those commercial breaks," said the First Lady.
I asked Disney Chief Bob Iger what foods and beverages that are currently being advertised on Disney channels would not make the cut by 2015. "We're not going to single any one product out but you can imagine just by watching TV...there are a lot of products out there that don't meet the standards," said Iger. "We hope to work with these companies so that they can continue advertising on our programs but with a product that is more nutritious and meets out guidelines. That is really our goal."
Disney's nutrition guideline criteria for food and beverage products advertised from 2015 and beyond will take into account the following questions -- do the products contribute to a nutritious diet, do they encourage kid-appropriate portions and do they limit unhealthy ingredients such as sodium, sugar, saturated fats and trans fats.
While I tend to like the zero-advertising targeting kids model best, I know that's not a model that would work for any media company. So now the question is will other companies follow suit? Mrs. Obama is thinking the same thing!
"With this new initiative, Disney is doing what no other major media company has ever done before in the United States and what I hope every company will do going forward," she said.
We'll be watching!