State Law Approaches To Address Marketing

State Law Approaches To Address Marketing

Tue 21 Jan 2014

Story by The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation (USA)

State Law Approaches To Address Digital Food Marketing to Youth

The Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI) at Northeastern University School of Law, along the Center for Digital Democracy and Berkeley Media Studies Group, recently released State Law Approaches to Address Digital Food Marketing to Youth.

This resources is the first of it’s kind and provides an evidence base and action steps grounded in state law. State attorneys general and other stakeholders in children's health and privacy can use it to put a stop to certain digital marketing practices towards youth.

According to the report, by 2050, 1 in 3 U.S. adults could have diabetes; medical costs associated with diet-related disease are projected to rise between $22 and $48 billion per year by 2030. This chronic disease burden begins in childhood when eating preferences and food culture are ingrained and diet-related disease threatens the current and future well-being of children and teens.

Food marketing plays a major role in the foods children and teens desire, perceive as tasting good, request their parents to buy for them and ultimately purchase for themselves. State oversight of digital food marketing is integral to protecting vulnerable child and teen consumers.

Key findings of the report include:

• Research demonstrates that digital marketing is harder for children to identify than traditional television advertising, heightening the need for regulatory oversight.

• Nickelodeon, the biggest source of food ads seen by youth, has augmented its media empire through websites, mobile apps and programming that imports content from a popular YouTube channel. All of its digital platforms are ad-supported creating new opportunities for food and beverage companies to target youth.

• Digital campaigns are seamlessly woven into food packaging allowing marketers to target youth in supermarkets, convenience stores and fast food restaurants. Packaging often directs youth to digital marketing on mobile devices or online.

• Mobile marketing elements are integrated into food and beverage campaigns. The legal landscape for state oversight of mobile marketing includes federal and state SPAM and telemarketing laws, and the emerging regulation of geo-location tactics.

• States are authorized to protect child privacy under federal law and have successfully done so, but teens are not covered by child privacy laws. State attorneys general can fill the teen privacy gap using their general consumer protection authority to ensure that company promises to protect privacy are honored and that teens are not duped into sharing personal information.

• Facebook remains the dominant social media platform for teens. Teens growing use of social media has resulted in them being less privacy savvy. Food companies exploit this by prompting teens to login to their websites and participate in promotions via Facebook thereby granting marketers access to vast amounts of personal information.

• Digital sweepstakes and contests are in widespread use by the food industry with children as young as 6 years old. Despite repeated enforcement actions by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (a self-regulatory body); food companies continue to conduct digital promotions with children that exploit their inability to understand that a free means of entry exists or their odds of winning a prize. State attorney general action is needed to augment these self-regulatory efforts to protect children from predatory promotions.
In addition to clear explanations of how digital marketing works and why it poses privacy and health risks to youth, key legal issues for state regulators are explored.

Find out more and read the report here.

The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation (USA)


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