Nader on Advertising

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Consumer activist and presidential hopeful Ralph Nader wants to create an Internet index dunning marketers who overstep the boundaries he's set in regard to advertising intrusion.

Mr. Nader could not be specific about how such an index would work at this stage, but said in an interview the aim would be to punish marketers who consistently go overboard in targeting consumers, such as product placement within movies and TV shows that is not identified as such and marketing in schools.

"When certain companies reach the critical index, we'd [list] them on the Internet," he said, adding that his consumer advocacy group Commercial Alert might also call for a product boycott.

Commercial Alert, founded in 1998, describes itself as a nonprofit with a mission to "keep commercial culture in its proper sphere and to prevent it from exploiting children." The group, run by Executive Director Gary Ruskin from his home in Portland, Ore., is preparing an extensive campaign to influence the World Health Organization's debate on the issue of food marketing. The WHO is debating issues surrounding diet, health and physical activity and as it prepares to vote on its global strategy regarding the subject in May.

Mr. Ruskin is calling for a worldwide ban on the marketing of junk food to kids younger than 12 years old and released a statement Feb. 27 decrying advertisers that pitch young kids. Commercial Alert's views are aimed at 120 of the world's most prominent public health organizations which are expected to meet and discuss the issue as part of the World Health Assembly.

Mr. Nader repeated calls to have product placement on TV and in movies properly labeled. Commercial Alert has appealed to both the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to look at the issue. The FTC has said it will review the complaint, but has not taken any action at this point.

Mr. Nader, who last week said he will stand as a contender in the 2004 presidential election, is looking for agencies interested in working with him on a pro-bono basis.

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