This is a warning for everyone with young children or grandchildren who like to watch cartoons and other entertainment on TV. Enjoy it now, because there's a chance that kids' programming could disappear for lack of advertising support.
In case you hadn't noticed, a group of federal agencies tied to food and nutrition (FTC, FDA, Agriculture Department and the CDC) have proposed "voluntary guidelines" for the restaurant, food and beverage industries that attempt to establish specific nutritional standards for products marketed to kids 2 through 17. The guidelines are overly expansive, and make it obvious that government watchdogs will be ready to pounce on any advertiser who is judged to be promoting products that step over subjective standards that have been dreamed up by anti-commercial amateurs.
Restaurants, cereals, candies, ice cream, and everything edible that is presented on children's TV will be scrutinized by some eager enforcers in those government agencies. Even though the guidelines are not yet law, companies that advertise cereals with 10 percent more sugar, or a kids' burger that has an extra 100 calories, will be vilified in press releases and other government pronouncements.
Since kids' TV ads on Nickelodeon and other cartoon shows are the primary medium (even MTV is vulnerable because youngsters under 17 are watching), advertisers would scramble to find other means to reach the audience. Perhaps many of those ad dollars from restaurant chains and cereal brands would migrate to the Internet or some new medium, leaving the producers with a huge financial gap in the support that funded the programs. It wouldn't be long before the number of hours devoted to kids' TV began to shrink, and the deterioration in the quality of the programs would happen even faster. Ratings would slide, and entire series could be dropped. Ultimately, kids' TV as we know it today could disappear.
Right now, this disastrous scenario may be difficult to imagine. But isn't it just as difficult to imagine government agencies dictating the caloric ingredients in food products, and telling manufacturers and restaurants that they can't advertise those products? Whatever happened to freedom of choice...freedom of expression...and parental discipline for children?
Yes, there is an obesity issue among children today. But do we need the federal government to criminalize businesses in order to solve it? The situation could be communicated in this way: "Parents, would you rather leave kids' TV as it is and impose discipline for your kids eating habits, or have your kids' programs disappear completely."
The National Restaurant Association is working with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and others to fight initiatives like this in Washington. It wouldn't hurt for restaurant people to express their support for the work being done there, and coming out in favor of the local legislation that bars these unwanted government intrusions into our lives.
I'd be happy to hear your thoughts: email@example.com.
Barry Klein is best known for creating the Ronald McDonald character and led the "You Deserve A Break Today" advertising campaign for McDonald's. In his current occupation as a marketing consultant, Klein has developed business-building concepts, new products and more for Coca Cola, Pizza Hut, Quiznos, Cadillac, Ruby Tuesday, Friendly’s, Perkins, Pay Less Shoes and others. He has been a key contributor to such projects as Stuffed Crust Pizza for Pizza Hut, Prime Rib Subs and Torpedoes for Quizno