Last week, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), Public Citizen and Corporate Accountability International launched an effort pushing the network PBS to cease a four-year marketing agreement between the children’s show Martha Speaks and the fast food chain Chick-fil-A.
The promotion efforts by PBS, whose "stated goals" include to “reach children” and “drive brand preference and restaurant traffic,” includes 15-second ads for Chick-fil-A before and after the Martha Speaks TV episodes; advertising on PBS Kids; and in-store giveaways at more than 1,600 Chick-fil-A locations. This approach has caught the attention of CCFC--driving them to speak out.
In 2011, approximately 56 million Chick-fil-A kids’ meals were distributed in Martha Speaks co-branded bags, and PBS executives decline to say what they have planned for the 30 months left in the promotion--according to CCFC.
Registered Dietitian and GalTime expert Elisa Zied weighs in with her opinion on the controversy.
"Unfortunately, children aren't able to really understand the concept of marketing. And when the rates of overweight, obesity, and type 2 diabetes are at record levels in America, the last thing we need to do is encourage more advertising of mostly unhealthful food to a vulnerable population," says Zied.
She adds, "having countless advertisements for tasty, enticing, nutrition-poor food geared towards children--especially when they're sedentary and in front of a screen--adds insult to injury. As a registered dietitian and mother of two, I fully support the right for children to not be inundated with ads for unhealthy foods when they watch tv, and hope that legislation will someday create firm advertisement guidelines that protect children from the potential negative effects food ads have on their eating habits and food preferences."
One concern that the CCFC cites is the fact that the Chick-fil-A sponsorship is the first time that advertising before and after a PBS children’s show has run simultaneously with an in-restaurant promotion.
In response to the campaign, the public relations firm that represents Chick-fil-A offered the following excerpt from a statement issued by WGBH, in affiliation with PBS and Martha Speaks (no public statement has been issued by the restaurant):
"WGBH is committed to improving children’s literacy through curriculum-based content like Martha Speaks, an award-winning program proven to boost literacy skills. In seeking funders to support the costs of producing our high-quality children’s programs we are grateful to have partners who also support our educational efforts and mission of extending learning to children wherever they may be.
Chick-fil-A does this through its sponsorship of Martha Speaks. As part of their support of the series they have distributed more than 4 million books, as well as 4.5 million printed pieces that feature educational activities and content from the series to promote parent-child interaction."
GalTime Parenting expert Barbara Greenberg finds PBS' choice suspect and suggests the network and parents look deeper into the issue.
"We, as parents, who love PBS and all that you have done for us implore you to associate PBS and Martha with higher order choices-ones that will nourish our kids' minds and bodies properly. Are you with us PBS? We'd like you to be in the child-rearing game with us for the long haul. You are part of the community that helps us raise our children. Your role is incredibly powerful. And, with power comes responsibility."
What are your thoughts on the campaign?
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Elisa Zied is a highly acclaimed nutritionist, former spokesperson of the American Dietetic Association, and author of several books including her newest 'Nutrition At Your Fingertips.' Learn more at elisazied.com.
Barbara Greenberg and Jennifer Powell-Lunder are authors of the hit book, "Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual." They've set up an interactive website for parents and teens to listen, learn and discuss hot topics and daily dilemmas. You can find it at www.talkingteenage.com.