Kids' Marketers Warned of US Litigation Boom

19 January 2007

NEW YORK: Lawyers are rubbing their hands in anticipation of a litigation bonanza arising from marketing to kids. The Association of National Advertisers' Advertising Law & Business Affairs Conference was told: "2007 will be a year of focus on kids' advertising."

The childhood obesity epidemic sweeping the nation will prompt increasing numbers of lawsuits against food marketers as new curbs are introduced, warned speakers at the convention.

But, despite the long shadow of the courtroom, lawyer John Feldman urged manufacturers: "If you're in the business of selling candy, sell candy; if you're in the business of selling burgers, sell burgers."

The way to avoid a legal minefield, he told them, is to take care not misrepresent food as healthy, when plainly it is not: "If you make something that is a treat, full of fat and calories, any implication that it's healthy is dangerous."

Feldman also announced the launch of, a website offering news and updates on regulatory activities, including revised guidelines for the Children's Advertising Review Unit and the Children's Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative led by ten of America's largest food and drinks manufacturers [WARC: 16-Nov-06].

Fellow legal eagle Geoffrey Beach suggested permission-based direct marketing, as adopted by tobacco companies, was a safe approach but 'that's a lot to go through to buy a box of Oreos'.

Another hot topic was the future of guarding intellectual property and individual rights as the internet becomes an ever more pervasive medium.

Elizabeth Arden vp/associate general counsel James Perry advised marketers to "disabuse ourselves of the notion that we'll be able to control the content on the internet".

He added: "The question is no longer, 'What can we do?' Now it's, 'What should we do?' It is a question that attorneys and the marketing team decide based on a cost/benefit analysis."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff