CCFC Blog

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I were forced to confront the fact that our twenty-month-old daughter knows who Elmo is. And she likes him. For a while, Clara has been saying something that sounded a lot like Elmo. But we convinced ourselves that she was saying “MoMo,” the name of one of her stuffed animals; for parents in denial, toddler enunciation has its benefits. But when my wife dropped Clara off at daycare and she pointed to another child’s box of diapers and enthusiastically announced “Elmo,” we couldn’t fool ourselves any longer. Despite our best efforts, commercial culture has already made a considerable impression on our young daughter. That night, when my wife gently broke the news to me, Clara, who was listening to the...
In this week's Health Blog, the Wall Street Journal's Katherine Hobson asks readers to chime in on a "debate" among family doctors over the ethics of corporate sponsorship of medicine. But first, the backdrop. Last year, the American Academy of Family Physicians announced "a new corporate partnership program" and its first partner was to be The Coca-Cola Company. Soon thereafter, about 20 doctors resigned from the organization in protest, drawing attention to the matter by Food Politics author Marion Nestle as well as advocacy groups such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. The grant amount was described as being in the "strong six figures" by AAFP. Here is how the group described the partnership in its October...
Earlier this year, CCFC was ejected from its home at the Judge Baker Children's Center (JBCC.) Judge Baker’s decision to end its affiliation with CCFC came after representatives from the Walt Disney Company contacted the Center following CCFC’s successful campaign to persuade Disney to offer refunds on its Baby Einstein videos. The story touched a nerve with many of our supporters, including Lisa Ray -- activist, blogger, mother, and founder of Parents for Ethical Marketing: What kind of a country do we live in, I thought at the time, where a multi-billion dollar corporation can encroach upon a tiny advocacy organization and the people who work for it? Is the family friendly Disney so ruthless that it must control public criticism? Who...
The news that a federal appeals court struck down a Federal Communications Commission indecency policy reminded me of the whole Justin-Timberlake-ripping-Janet-Jackson’s-blouse-off-during-the-Super-Bowl debacle a few years ago. Tens of thousands of people called the FCC to complain, which is what spurred the agency to crack down on indecency. A few months after the Super Bowl, in a presentation to the Network of Spiritual Progressives, I expressed concern that a lion’s share of the outrage was voiced by people identified with the country’s Religious Right. Progressives, who tend to support sex education in schools, often stay away from voicing outrage about how sex is marketed to children in the media. I don’t really understand why. After...
Last week I blogged about how the Center for Public Interest (CSPI) is threatening a lawsuit against McDonald's for using toys to promote Happy Meals to kids. Since then, McDonald's has responded, sort of. In a letter apparently fed to the press even before CSPI got to see it, McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner attempts to "set the record straight:" We have a long history of working with responsible NGOs who are interested in serious dialogue and meaningful engagement; and we are open to constructive feedback. Really? Like how McDonald's worked with those two activists in the UK by suing them for libel in the 1990s for putting out a simple brochure? The case (dubbed McLibel) spawned a book and a movie and became notorious for being the longest...
When it comes to marketing to children, self-regulation is never going to work, and an article in the Wall Street Journal gets to the crux of why it won’t. Elaine Kolish, vice president and director of the food industry’s Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, told Congress that the voluntary nutritional standards proposed by a group of federal agencies for what could and could not be marketed to children were too strict. "There are very few products, period, that meet these standards, whether they're primarily consumed by adults or children.” According to the article, Kolish said that, “General Mills Inc. would be unable to gear advertising for Cheerios cereal, with 190 milligrams of sodium per serving, to children because...
I’m not surprised that American Girl dolls are about to be sold a la Webkins with keys to a virtual world—the brand’s fate was sealed when it was sold to Mattel. But the news made me sad.  It’s yet another corporate message to children that their imaginative world—their own creative play—isn’t good enough.  Back in the day, I was rather fond of the dolls. This was before the factory moved to China, before the television shows, the movies, and the designer stores featuring $25 facials for little plastic faces. Okay, I’m a sucker for dolls, but I come by it honestly.  My mother was a sucker for them, too. My mom died in 1993, when my daughter was four.  Before her death, she purchased Kirsten Larson (the one of Swedish ancestry who gets to...
It was only a matter of time. Last month, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) served McDonald's with a notice of its intent to sue if the fast food giant continues to use toys to promote Happy Meals. (An "intent to sue" letter is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit in some states.) The basis for the potential case is that using toys to market to small children is unfair and deceptive under the consumer protection laws in a number of states. According to CSPI's letter, McDonald's toy promotions violate the laws of California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Texas, and the District of Columbia. CSPI's litigation director Stephen Gardner explained in a statement that "McDonald's is the stranger in the playground handing out candy...
Because I tend to focus my attention on news being generated by the major food companies, I don't always pay close attention to the latest scary reports on obesity data. So when the annual report called F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing America came out this week, I just thought, Oh there's that report again with the awful name, with the same gloomy numbers as last year. But then I got an interesting email message forwarded from New York University professor and food politics maven Marion Nestle that made me realize I should pay closer attention to this year's report. The email was from Harold Goldstein, executive director of the highly effective non-profit, California Center for Public Health Advocacy. He was...
There are days when the forces that mine childhood for profit seem too formidable; when the corporate capture of our government feels like far too much to overcome; when the chorus of "it's all parents' fault" is so deafening that I have trouble hearing other voices. And then there are days like today, when something extraordinary happens that renews my faith that a commercial-free childhood is possible. I have just read a truly remarkable, eloquent essay by the most unexpected source. Alex Bogusky is a Founding Partner of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, one of the nation's most influential and successful ad agencies. Until recently, their accounts included Burger King and the agency is responsible for, among other things, the infamous...

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