holders in a multiyear FTC deliberation to consider the possible need for government intervention to regulate advertising because of the perceived adverse effects of television advertising directed to young children. At that time, strong scientific evidence connected the consumption of sugar to the development of dental caries, which became a public health concern. The argument favoring regulation focused on the increased number of sweetened food and beverage advertisements that were reaching children through television (the primary media channel at that time), combined with the social concern that young children were unable to discern the difference between television advertisements and educational programming (Beales, 2004; Ratner et al., 1978).
The FTC proposed a rulemaking process in 1978—known as “Kidvid”—that would either restrict or ban advertising to young children as a protective measure, and FTC staff sought public comment on the issues, including three proposed alternative actions (Ratner et al., 1978). During this process, the FTC provisionally concluded, based upon its review of scientific evidence, that television advertising directed at young children was unfair and deceptive (Elliott et al., 1981). Congress subsequently objected to intrusions on private-sector advertising and pressured the FTC to withdraw its proposed rule and to conclude that evidence of adverse effects of advertising on children was inconclusive (Elliott et al., 1981). Acknowledging that there was some cause for concern, the FTC stated that it would be difficult to develop a workable rule that would alleviate harm without also infringing on First Amendment rights. Congress barred any rule based on unfairness, and the FTC terminated the rulemaking process in 1981 (Beales, 2004; Elliott et al., 1981).
In the agency’s final report to Congress (Elliott et al., 1981), the FTC concluded that young children lack the capacity to distinguish between persuading and informing. The American Psychological Association Task Force on Advertising and Children reiterated the same conclusion in a report nearly a quarter of a century later (Kunkel et al., 2004). Although some have called for extension of the FTC conclusions on television advertising to vulnerabilities from other sources of marketing to children, the influence of other forms of consumer promotion and marketing strategies to children has not been systematically studied, in part because of the newness of the techniques and also because of the lack of peer-reviewed evidence and difficulties in accessing propriety data.
Common issues raised include not only concern with the content and integrated nature (i.e., multiple channels and venues) of advertising and other forms of marketing to children and adolescents, but also the types and overall quality of foods and beverages that are advertised and marketed to young consumers and their parents. Branding, for example, has become a routine part of children’s lives. Some believe that parental abil-