Kids' Upfront 2008

Food Spend Rises Despite Ad Crackdown

Marketers Shift Weight to Healthful Products, Saving No. 2 Ad Category

By Published on .

CHICAGO ( -- True or false: The government crackdown on advertising unhealthful foods to youngsters has hurt kids' networks that subsist on ads from marketers such as McDonald's and Kellogg.

The answer is false. Overall TV spending by McDonald's Corp., Kellogg Co., General Mills and Campbell Soup Co. rose to $1.7 billion in 2007 from $1.6 billion in 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. About $204 million was spent on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. Only General Mills decreased its TV spending, to $90.6 million in 2007 from $99.8 million in '06.

"The obesity issue and health and wellness are still very alive and real, and we continue to have meetings ... throughout the year with our key food partners," said Jim Perry, exec VP-ad sales at Nick, which saw increases in spending from Kellogg, McDonald's and Campbell. He added that food is "the No. 2 category for us, and there's still very strong ways to build that base for us. But there's no new change over the last six to eight months in that category."

It didn't look like it would be that way a year ago. Some $1 billion in marketing dollars were left in limbo amid scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission and outcry from Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. Marketers reacted by dropping ads for foods that did not meet nutritional guidelines and shifting money to support more-healthful options.

Nutritional initiatives
Many companies are in the midst of major overhauls to keep their brands relevant and compliant with guidelines they set last year. Kellogg, for example, decided not to advertise any items with more than 200 calories per serving to children. As part of that commitment, the company introduced Pop-Tarts Toaster Pastries with whole grains and Frosted Flakes Gold, a whole-grain take on the classic with less sugar. A recent TV spot announces Kellogg's new labeling system, which breaks out key nutritional information on the front of the box.

Chief Marketing Officer Mark Baynes declined to say how various health and nutrition initiatives would affect Kellogg's TV advertising, "but I can tell you that the majority of our marketing is focused on adults, particularly moms."

General Mills agreed to stop advertising products with more than 175 calories per serving to children, including Toaster Strudel, CEO Kendall Powell said. The guidelines, he said, "give our product developers a good reason to reduce the number of calories in some of those products."

Campbell will reformulate 12 condensed soups for kids this year, and use the likeness of Disney princesses and Nickelodeon's Dora the Explorer to boost their appeal.

"The challenge is one we embrace together," said John O'Hara, senior VP-ad sales, Cartoon Network. "We look at how we get the message out to kids in a responsible way."

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