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FOOD MARKETERS READY CONGRESSIONAL LOBBYING EFFORT

Plan Aggressive Defense of Children's Food Advertising Business

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Any effort to limit children's food advertising will also inevitably limit advertising to adults, the Association of National Advertisers charged as it opened its lobbying effort for a one-day food marketing hearing at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science.
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Carrying the banner for the beleaguered food advertising business, the ANA issued a statement this morning that said: "No child is going to drive himself to a quick service restaurant or supermarket, so the ads seen by these children are also intended for adults."

Attack scientific data
It said bans in other countries on children's advertising have had no effect on diet. The ANA also questioned the accuracy of scientific data being used to define the childhood obesity crisis. "Some of the reports of critics of food and beverage marketing have been based on assumptions and assertions, rather than solid scientific data and analysis," the statement said.

Advertising lobbying groups, including the ANA, the American Advertising Federation, the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, and marketers General Mills, Kraft Foods and Kellogg Co. have been meeting for a year to formulate strategy against any congressional attempt to curtail food advertising aimed at children.

New lobbying alliance
The players, which have occasionally formed industry groups over issues -- the Advertising Tax Coalition is one; the Freedom to Advertise Coalition was another -- last week formed the Alliance for American Advertising on the food issue.

Congress has directed the Institute of Medicine to undertake a comprehensive study of the science-based effects of food marketing on the diets and health of children and youth in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is funding the study.

Executives of PepsiCo, Kraft Foods, McDonald's, General Mills, and Viacom's Nickelodeon will testify today about efforts they have taken to improve nutrition information to children.

A PepsiCo spokeswoman said a presentation by Ellen Taaffe, PepsiCo's vice president of health and wellness marketing, will "basically cover a lot of the things we've already been talking about." Central among them is the company's continued commitment to its portfolio of Smart Spot products that meet established nutrition guidelines and its shift in focus of both new product development and marketing toward those products.

Increasing pressure
Meanwhile, food manufacturers continue to come under increasing pressure on the issue. The Second Circuit Appellate Court yesterday revived on technical grounds a lawsuit against McDonald's alleging that the fast-food chain deceptively represented consumer information to New York City customers. And recently, the Center for Science in the Public Interest issued proposed advertising guidelines calling for strict limits on advertising of many food and beverage products to those under 18.

The real concern of ad groups and marketers, however, is what will Congress will. Despite gains by Republicans in both Houses, food advertising issues have traditionally come under attack from both parties.

The alliance's activities will be little different from what ad trade groups have conducted during the past year -- lobbying and public relations activities -- but members said the name provides a common face to the effort to influence Congress and the media and enlist other corporate partners.

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