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Marketing and Comms
Nickelodeon Refuses to Ban Junk-Food Ads

Children's entertainment network Nickelodeon says it will not give in to public pressure to ban advertisements for junk food despite childhood obesity concerns.

The Viacom-owned network has no plans to follow in Walt Disney Co.’s footsteps, which last year said it would ban advertisements for “noncompliant” foods from its child-focused cable channels by 2015.

"As an entertainment company, Nickelodeon's primary mission is to make the highest quality entertainment content in the world for kids," the company wrote in response to four Democratic US senators' call for the network to change its ways, according to the New York Times. "That is our expertise. We believe strongly that we must leave the science of nutrition to the experts."

Money is a significant factor behind Nick's lack of progressiveness on this issue. While food advertising on the network has fallen by some 45 percent since 2008, it remains Nickelodeon's third-largest advertising category behind movies and toys.

Viacom executives also say their critics have given Nickelodeon too little credit for the measures it already has taken to reduce unhealthy food and beverage advertising, including dedicating 10 percent of its promotion airtime to health and wellness messaging, restricting the licensing of characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants on certain junk foods and investing in communities to buy swing sets and other playground equipment.

It is yet to be seen if Nick's position will influence the consumer packaged goods-marketing community. While food, beverage and restaurant brands are increasingly being pressured to offer more healthy products, how and to what extent they choose to advertise these offerings can play large roles in public acceptance and in their business performance.

What do you think about Nickelodeon's decision? How much responsibility should networks take in guiding the purchasing and lifestyle decisions of its target audiences? We would love to hear your thoughts.

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