Kraft gets into the ‘Groove’

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In fending off critics, Kraft Foods' moves are as smooth as those in its new online game, Groove Master.

The game is modeled after the popular arcade game Dance Dance Revolution, in which kids synchronize dance patterns to music. It's one of a number of so-called active games Kraft is pushing in a bid to force video-game players off the couch to burn calories.

The initiative is part of a carefully plotted strategy Kraft has employed to avoid being tarred in the war against food marketers and their role in childhood obesity. In part to escape the kind of disastrous litigation showered upon its cigarette sibling, Philip Morris, Kraft early last year yanked all advertising for kids under 6, and limited advertising aimed at older kids to its more-healthful food options.

The strategy seems to be working. Not only was Kraft not named in a planned lawsuit against Kellogg Co. and Viacom's Nickelodeon, the food marketer was actually singled out for praise by one plaintiff, the Center for Science in the Public Interest. A press release announcing the suit applauded Kraft for "setting nutritional guidelines for the foods it markets to kids and not marketing to kids under 6."

Kraft reacted swiftly last year to criticisms of kids' marketing tactics that surfaced during a Federal Trade Commission summer workshop on marketing, self-regulation and childhood obesity. By the fall, Kraft began testing what it calls its "exer-tainment" initiative-games that blend exercise and entertainment.

Groove Master and another game, Rock the Boat (modeled after Whack-a-Mole) require players to purchase game pads that they use for interactive play (the Groove Master pad serves as the dance floor). Those game pads are also billboards for the sibling Kraft, Post and Nabisco brands, although no individual products are plugged.

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