Friday, June 8, 2007

Food and Beverage Companies Targeting Children and Teens with Digital Marketing Tactics

Click here for Rapid Response talking points.
A report released on Thursday, May 17, 2007 by Berkeley Media Studies Group and the Center for Digital Democracy revealed that food and beverage companies are using the latest digital media technologies to promote their products to children and adolescents.

The report, entitled “
Interactive Food & Beverage Marketing: Targeting Children and Youth in the Digital Age,” documents in vivid detail how major food, soft drink and fast food brands are deploying a panoply of new techniques -- including cell phones, instant messaging, video games, user-generated video, and three-dimensional virtual worlds --to target children and adolescents, often under the radar of parents. The report also reveals a range of new digital strategies these marketers have devised for targeting multicultural youth, including African Americans and Hispanics.

Among the many digital marketing examples cited in the 98-page report are the following:
To “create a compelling way to connect with the younger demographic,” 600 McDonald’s restaurants in California launched a mobile marketing campaign, urging young cell phone users to text-message to a special phone number to receive an instant electronic coupon for a free McFlurry dessert.

Coca-Cola’s “My Coke Rewards” program offers special codes in its products that enable young people to access a website, where they can earn such rewards as downloadable ring tones and “amazing sports and entertainment experiences.”

“Digital technologies are fundamentally transforming how food and beverage companies do business with children and adolescents in the twenty-first century,” explained American University professor and report co-author Kathryn Montgomery, Ph.D. “We urge the Federal Trade Commission to include the full range of new media strategies identified in this report in its investigation of contemporary food marketing practices.”

As Rapid Responders, we urge you to monitor your local media for coverage of the report and to respond with letters to the editor and op-eds. Specific actions to highlight include: Asking the FTC to compel food and beverage companies to provide information on specific practices documented in the report, including “cookies,” “tags,” and other profiling and tools; “psychosocial research”; social-network campaigns; user-generated content; immersive media; and avatar-based techniques.

Click here to access the executive summary, full report, and interactive visual examples.
We welcome you to share any letters or op-eds that get published with the rest of the Strategic Alliance membership by sending them to

Strategic Alliance is reframing the debate on nutrition and physical activity away from a focus on individual choice and lifestyle towards one of environment and corporate and government responsibility. Current Steering Committee members are: California Adolescent Nutrition and Fitness Program (CANFit), California Center for Public Health Advocacy, California Food Policy Advocates, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, California Parks and Recreation Society, California Project LEAN, California WIC Association, Child Care Food Program Roundtable, Latino Health Access, Partnership for the Public's Health, Prevention Institute, Samuels & Associates and YMCA of the East Bay.

The Strategic Alliance is currently engaged in building a broad and diverse statewide membership. To join or for more information, please visit us on the Web,, or contact Sana Chehimi at 510.444.7738 or And even if you're already a member, please forward this message on to your colleagues so we can continue to strengthen our coalition. Thank you!
Strategic Alliance is reframing the debate on nutrition and physical activity--from a focus on individual choice and lifestyle, towards one of environment and corporate and government responsibility.

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