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  • A Roundtable on Children and Food Advertising
  • With Julie Halpin (bio), Paul Kurnit (bio), Betsy Moore (bio), Linda M. Scott (bio), Angela Tiffin (bio), and Jerome Williams (bio)

Good morning. I would like to open this expert discussion about issues in advertising food to children by asking everyone to introduce themselves and tell a little about your background and perspective.


I am Betsy Moore. I am an associate professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame. I have been studying marketing to children for a number of years. My most recent focus has been on the relationship between food marketing and childhood obesity, with a particular emphasis on new methods of marketing to children.


I’m Julie Halpin. I have worked in the advertising industry for the last twenty-five or so years. Most recently I have been the chief executive officer of a youth agency called Geppetto. Prior to that, I ran a division of Saatchi called “The Kid Connection.” I have been a creator of advertising to children all of that time. And my relationship to the food industry, in particular, came early in my career. I spent twelve years working with one company, a big food company who was very committed to finding the responsible way to be both an effective business enterprise and a responsible marketer. That’s been my “true north” ethically as a professional, - to find a way to allow creative expression of products to be created, and to do it in a way that also honors what kids can understand. It’s a moving target, it’s a tricky question, but I’ve spent most of my career working on that.


Paul Kurnit. I’m clinical professor in marketing at Pace University. But most of my career was in advertising like Julie. As often happens in the advertising business, I stumbled in to the kids business because I was assigned to General Foods early on, which then became Kraft and now is Post Cereals. I’ve worked on Pepsi and Hostess and a number of food products early in my career. I joined the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) Advisory Board early on as well, so have been very involved with all the guidelines, developments that we’ve confronted in terms of self-regulation over a long period. As another footnote in this, I had extensive experience in the toy business as well. So, what we confronted with CARU in terms of both toys and foods became very interesting.


I’m Angela Tiffin and I work for Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), a division of the Advertising Self-Regulatory Review Council, which is the self-regulatory body that monitors children’s media and advertising, as well as online for children’s privacy. CARU open cases when we feel that advertisers are not complying with our guidelines. Of course, our guidelines were originally assembled and written with the cooperation of industry, as well as academics. So that makes it easier and harder because in some ways we’re limited, in some ways we’re independent. So that can be a balancing act of interests.


I’m Jerome Williams and I’m a professor at Rutgers University. My primary area of interest deals with multicultural marketing. As a result of that, I’ve been drawn in to looking at children and obesity because if you look at health disparities, people of color and particularly their children, are really impacted greatly by issues related to obesity and health. And at the same time, I consider myself what’s called a “marginal man.” That is, I go back and forth between the public health sector and the industry and I work with both of them. I was part of the 2005/2006 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on food marketing to children, and more recently I am co-editor of a book published this year funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that deals with advances in communication research to reduce childhood obesity.


Let’s start by setting the scene for readers who not experts in this area. What is the current situation regarding food advertising to...