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Disney Nixes Junk Food Ads from Broadcasts

If you have the chance, sit down and watch 30 minutes of children’s programming and pay close attention, not to the programming, but to the commercials that make up about 1/3 of the 30 minute viewing time. Besides advertising all manner of toys and movies with product tie-ins, your eyes will take in a glut of snack food commercials cynically aimed squarely at children. They are colorful, punchy, and frequently run with themes addressing fantasies of childhood independence, kids outsmarting cartoon villains, and unmitigated fun. The message, of course, is if you eat this crap, you will be in on the fun! See examples below:

This kind of advertising is hugely seductive, and draws children in like drones. For years parent groups and child advocacy coalitions have lobbied long and hard to try to curb such advertisement, especially for objectionable junk food. Now, in a move that is sure to be huge, the Walt Disney Co. became the first major media company to effectively ban ads for junk food on all its TV channels, radio stations, and websites, in hopes that by limiting exposure to such seductive media, kids will naturally make healthier choices. According to a press release by Disney, the food that doesn’t meet Disney’s new nutritional standards for broadcast goes well beyond candy bars and fast-food meals. For example, Capri Sun juice (too much sugar) and Oscar Mayer Lunchables (high sodium) won’t be advertised. Any cereal with 10 grams or more of sugar per serving is also off the air. A full meal can’t be more than 600 calories. Not surprisingly, First Lady Michelle Obama (longstanding advocate for more nutritious family eating) called this move by Disney a “game changer.”

While these sweeping changes won’t take full effect until 2015 (I guess media contracts have been inked 3 years into the future) the absence of Apple Jacks commercials is sure to be noticed and the ripples will likely extend to competing media networks like Nickelodeon and The Cartoon Network. It is amazing that it has really taken this long for some entity to demonstrate some ethical responsibility toward their viewership. But then again, Disney has basically lost a good part of their advertiser base as well as all the money that comes with such contracts. Still, by making such a bold move, Disney becomes more esteemed, and maybe even trusted, among parents. They will certainly be rewarded with increased viewership.

What is your read on this move? Is it a little too late, or just what the nutritionist ordered? Do you think the barrage of junk food commercials adversely impacts young minds, or that it is something easily tuned out? Do you expect that this signals the end of junk food marketing as we know it?


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Read more: Appetizers & Snacks, Blogs, Caregiving, Children, Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Family, Following Food, Food, General Health, Health, Smart Shopping, Teens, , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.


+ add your own
2:06PM PST on Jan 19, 2014

Well, it's a good start, even if it turns out it's just a publicity stunt. Thanks.

5:01AM PDT on Jun 15, 2013


1:24PM PDT on Aug 16, 2012

good for them!

8:23AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

A good idea, helps keep the young ones from clamouring for junk at the grocery stores when they see less of the advertising directed their way!

5:18AM PDT on Jun 30, 2012

Good for them!!

1:11AM PDT on Jun 30, 2012

Well done Disney Corp! This could better the lives of so many children.

4:04PM PDT on Jun 29, 2012

Good move Disney!

4:15AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

@Elaine A. I disagree. I don't think much of fast food would be perceived of as edible without a lot of social pressure and scientifically guided deception. Children are hard wired to learn from the society that surrounds them. Kudos to those cultures who protect their children from these parasites.

8:23PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

People are going to eat what they want, so Disney banning fast food ultimately means nothing.

12:58PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

great news now if only some parents stopped feeding alot of junk food to kids

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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