Representing the Makers of the World’s Favorite Food, Beverage and Consumer Products

Responsible Advertising; A GMA Commitment

July 23, 2015

By: Mary Sophos, Executive Vice President, Policy and Strategic Planning

Advertising foods to kids is a hot topic that needs to be on every food and beverage company’s list of issues to watch, so to help GMA members understand why it is so important we partnered with children’s food advertising experts from Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) on a webinar about food advertising to or for children. This webinar covered a range of advertising “watch-outs” and explained how getting it wrong can affect not just one company but the whole industry.

GMA’s members have a longstanding commitment to responsible advertising and marketing practices, but not everyone who advertises to kids today may have done so when this issue was top of mind for media executives, brand lawyers and CEOs. This webinar reminded us all of the need to build and maintain trust with our consumers, who want the industry’s help in making the healthy choice the easy choice.

We can and are doing this in so many ways. It begins with the products themselves. Industry has introduced thousands of products that provide options for consumers looking for ways to incorporate variety, balance and moderation in their diets. At the same time industry has made changes in the nutrition profile of people’s favorite foods to make them healthier, without sacrificing quality or taste.

Informing consumers about products and services available to them is equally essential if they are to enjoy the benefits of the options that food companies provide. In crafting product advertising, particularly advertising directed to children, food and beverage companies are guided by internal principles and policies as well as the standards set by advertising self-regulatory organizations such as Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) and CFBAI.  CARU sets voluntary standards for ensuring that advertising directed to children takes account of the abilities and judgment that children at various ages can be expected to bring to understanding such communications. CFBAI sets voluntary standards for what kinds of food and beverage are shown in advertising directed to children through common nutrition criteria based on guidance set by national government agencies.

The value of advertising and marketing is tied to the trust and respect that those messages command. This requires ongoing attention and periodic reviews of self-regulatory standards to ensure that they are actually achieving their intended purpose.

Thus both CARU and CFBAI have updated and enhanced their standards and scope of coverage over the past decade.  Industry trade associations play a role as well, and just this week, we are reminding companies of self-regulatory efforts and of evolving marketplace issues.

We know that advertising can play a positive role in promoting healthy diets and healthy lifestyles and industry continues to demonstrate its commitment to lead on this issue.


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