December 6, 2005

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AAF Finds IOM Report Lacks Recognition of Advertising Industry Efforts to Combat Childhood Obesity

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In response to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report Food Marketing and the Diets of Children and Youth, American Advertising Federation (AAF) President & CEO Wally Snyder said, "The advertising industry is keenly aware of the dangers of childhood obesity and has been engaged in finding genuine solutions to this problem for some time. There seems to be little recognition in the IOM report of what the industry has been accomplishing. Responding to public concern, food manufacturers are now promoting healthier products and active lifestyles for children. Over the past three years, food manufacturers have introduced 4,500 new or reformulated products with improved nutrition. Initiatives designed to help consumers lead healthier lifestyles are central to current food marketing. To stay competitive, smart companies must respond to public demand and are doing so by offering a range of food options and nutritional information to their consumers."

The key to obesity is a lack of strenuous physical activity, according to numerous studies. In an October 17 statement, Snyder called for a national initiative to promote physical activity, saying "I think it is vitally important that the AAF and the advertising industry call for the return of physical education to our children's lives — and to our lives. We call on school boards across the country to provide before- and after-school PE programs for all students and for government and industry to provide funding support." The AAF is meeting with numerous physical education groups to best determine how to promote physical education and finds the lack of recognition in the IOM report of physical activity's role in reducing obesity to be disconcerting.

The AAF praised solutions underway by the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) to better monitor children's advertising. This self-regulatory body has a strong record of success, adjudicating more than 500 cases and reaching favorable resolutions in more than 95 percent of those cases. Said Snyder, "Rather than rest on their laurels, CARU is planning to increase its staff and strengthen its voluntary pre-dissemination review of advertising. CARU currently has a task force that is reviewing self-regulatory guidelines for advergaming. They have already expanded their list of advisers to include more representation in the areas of child psychology, childhood communications and nutrition. The IOM report failed to recognize that CARU continues to be one of our strongest forces in ensuring that advertising is fair, balanced and appropriate."

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The American Advertising Federation (AAF), headquartered in Washington, D.C., acts as the "Unifying Voice for Advertising." The AAF is the oldest national advertising trade association, representing 50,000 professionals in the advertising industry. The AAF has a national network of 200 ad clubs located in ad communities across the country. Through its 215 college chapters, the AAF provides 6,500 advertising students with real-world case studies and recruitment connections to corporate America. The AAF also has 130 blue-chip corporate members that are advertisers, agencies and media companies, comprising the nation's leading brands and corporations. For more information, visit the AAF's Web site at