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Is Cartoon Character Advertising Making American Kids Fat?

Friday, October 03, 2008 by: Roosevelt Pitt
Tags: junk food, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Believe it or not it's been nearly seventy-three years since one of the earliest cartoon driven products was advertised to children. Post Cereals discovered their sales for Post Toasties skyrocketing after they licensed a certain adorable rodent. Care to guess who the popular movie character was? You may be as surprised as I was to learn it was Mickey Mouse! Soon afterwards, with little surprise, other companies followed suit and found the golden goose of advertising to children. In the 1950s, Continental Baking Co. employed the puppet Howdy Doody to pitch Twinkies on his popular TV show.

Children are attracted to flashy colored characters and packaging and although parents may say "no, no, no", at the end the likes of Spongebob SquarePants, Scooby Doo, Shrek, Barbie, Cookie Monster and others often win out. And be aware that all of the characters mentioned have at one time or another promoted low nutrient value foods and continue to do so. Animated characters that have brought joy, excitement and years of entertainment, in my opinion, are delivering directly or indirectly an early demise to our children. For example, SpongeBob is one of the worst and is guilty of promoting many unhealthy junk foods. It's clear by my study and what has recently occurred with Michael Phelps (yes, sports heroes can be just as misused in advertising as animated characters are) that corporate profits outweigh the worth of health.

For years many advocacy groups have taken corporations such as Disney, and most recently Nickelodeon and Kellogg's, to task for their ongoing advertising campaigns. The Center for Science in the Public Interest and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, along with several parents, claim that using Nickelodeon characters such as SpongeBob and Dora the Explorer as a way to entice children is ultimately contributing to child obesity. I wholeheartedly agree. And if you are a parent it's an inescapable reality that corporations utilizing these characters for profit and personal gains usurp your authority.

The Institute of Medicine, one of the nation's leading scientific advisory bodies, which spent a year studying the effects of food marketing on children's diet and health, stated clearly that the effects of using licensed characters on food packaging is directly associated with obesity. As expected, most food manufacturers had no comment on that report. Others, such as Kraft foods, took notice and have made some significant changes.

It's estimated, as I've mentioned in other articles, that food manufacturers spend nearly 11 billion dollars per year on marketing campaigns that target children and many of these are lead by cartoon characters. So, one question comes to mind. Are advertisers making our character favorites "cartoons of doom" for our children? Or can they be compared to the analogy of a gun? The gun is not evil in and of itself, or harmful, some argue. It's the person that uses it. Either way we should protect ourselves with as much knowledge as possible and understand that we have more power than we believe. Play with a gun long enough and it's bound to go off. Can television, magazine and website advertising to children be considered a mental gun that could go off? If you set your children in front of the television or allow them to surf the web for long periods of time unsupervised, the answer is a resounding "yes".

Regardless, keep in mind that corporations respond to one thing and one thing only: Money. Stop the flow of greenbacks and they will take notice and make changes. So saying no to your child for their own well-being may deliver a bit of gloom for your little one, but later in life it will blossom into a lifestyle of making healthier choices.

I'm not one for shameless plugs, but I will say that I'm glad Charles the Chef exists to help offset the effects of negative advertising to our children. He is relatively new to the game, but has power and growing support. As his popularity grows, I imagine at times he will have to trade in his cooking utensils for a pair of boxing gloves or nunchuks to ward off attacks from rival animated icons. So you may hear him say "Let's Get Punching!" instead of "Let's Get Cooking!" Just a whimsical way of saying that despite the glitter of animated character-driven advertising, don't be fooled. We are in a constant battle for the lives of our children. It's good to know that Charles the Chef is on the front lines with us.

About the author

Roosevelt Pitt, Jr. is a veteran author of over five books and graphic novels. He is also the author and co-creator of Food Adventures with Charles the Chef, a book created to help children develop good eating habits early. For additional information please visit www.charlesthechef.com or email Roosevelt at [email protected]

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