Hillary Clinton's kids' proposal vexes ad groups

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First lady Hillary Clinton's surprising call for limits to "the constant barrage of materialistic marketing and advertising targeted at our children" has led ad groups to question her proposals' constitutionality.

"It appears to be an enormously broad proposal, so broad that it is unconstitutional" said Dan Jaffe, exec VP of the Association of National Advertisers, who cautioned that he had few specifics of the proposal Mrs. Clinton made Sept. 26.

"A wholesale ban on advertising would not be the most reasonable approach to a problem," said Adonis Hoffman, senior VP of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

LAMBASTES MARKETERS

In the speech to the National Council of Jewish Women last week, Ms. Clinton lambasted marketers and advertisers.

"The commercialization of our children has simply gone too far," Ms. Clinton said. "Why are our kids the target of so much advertising, and at what age is it fair to advertise to them at all?"

"I believe," she added, "that we as a society . . . must do more to turn the tide on this trend to shield our children from the relentless bombardment of advertising on TV, the Internet and in our schools."

In her speech, Ms. Clinton announced several proposals she would introduce should she be elected to the U.S. Senate.

First, she said she wanted to give the Federal Trade Commission authority to ban all ad messages aimed at preschoolers. "I call upon industry to withdraw all such advertising. And I'll introduce legislation to have the FTC report on the extent of advertising to young children," she said.

Second, she said she wants to restore the FTC's authority to set public policies for "harmful" ads aimed at older children. An aide to Ms. Clinton said that under the legislation, the FTC would still have to justify the harm as a "substantial injury."

Finally, Ms. Clinton called for banning marketing in elementary schools. "Let's make our elementary schools off-limits to advertisers beyond routine vending machines. . . . The three R's shouldn't include retailing," she said.

QUESTIONS OVER DEFINITIONS

Mr. Jaffe said Ms. Clinton's news release contained no definition of "harmful or other consequences." He warned if the legislation is that broad, it could be used to ban almost anything. "What is harmful? Is it physical? Could be psychological? It could be very broad," Mr. Jaffe said.

The ad industry, he said, is "very concerned" about advertising to children, and its Children Advertising Review Unit has very restrictive language about how to communicate with kids.

Mr. Hoffman said government regulation isn't necessary. "I have to believe that media companies want to be good corporate citizens and that both marketers and investors will find that a much stronger incentive than regulation."

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