Last year, the Walt Disney Company announced that it will fully implement strong nutrition standards for what can be advertised to children via its television stations, radio networks and online outlets by 2015.
Now that Disney has stepped forward, it is time for other media companies to follow -- especially those whose audiences are primarily children.
Nickelodeon already has engaged in some efforts to reverse childhood obesity. The network holds the Worldwide Day of Play each October, which encourages children and their families to be physically active. But overall, the company needs to do more.
Allowing unhealthy products to be marketed to kids via its networks, websites, mobile platforms and other outlets undermines the other good work it is doing. Nickelodeon should follow Disney's lead and apply nutritional standards to all advertisements targeted to children on any of its media platforms.
Dear [decision maker],
I'm writing to ask you to strengthen your commitment to children by setting strong nutritional standards for all foods and beverages marketed to children on any of your platforms. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) conducted a thorough review of the science and concluded that food advertising affects children's food choices, food purchase requests, diets, and health. In addition, the majority of foods marketed to children remain of poor nutritional quality.
I appreciate that your company has taken some steps to limit licensing of Nickelodeon characters for use in the marketing of some food products. I'm also aware of your sponsorship of the Worldwide Day of Play. However, these laudable efforts are undermined any time children see ads for unhealthy products mixed in with your programming. The food and beverage marketing that Nickelodeon currently allows to air on its outlets does more to promote unhealthy eating than healthy eating. This contradicts the network's claim that, since 2002, it has "made childhood obesity a filter by which [it] reviews all our business initiatives."
That's why I urge you to implement strong nutrition standards for all food and beverage marketing to children, including all television advertising on Nickelodeon channels (including Nickelodeon, NickToons, TeenNick, and Nick, Jr.), company Internet sites, mobile platforms, and other places Nickelodeon reaches children. I also ask you to strengthen your policy on the use of licensed characters by applying specific nutrition standards to their use.
As the No. 1 entertainment brand for children, Nickelodeon has enormous influence over children's food choices and thus their lifelong habits and health. Nickelodeon could show true leadership by working towards implementing the Interagency Working Group food marketing guidelines. Please use your influence to support parents in their desire to raise happy, healthy children.