The Brussels-headquartered World Federation of Advertisers, meeting last week in New York for its annual Global Summit, topped its agenda with the industry's current hot potato: advertising to children.

Also high on the discussion list were the issues of self-regulation and sustainable development. Both, however, were overshadowed by the worldwide intensification of attacks on child-targeted ad campaigns – especially those promoting food and snack products.

Obesity in adults and children, delegates were told, is growing at an alarming rate both in developing and developed countries. Worldwide obesity levels have tripled over the last fifteen years. In the US, UK, France and Germany almost 40% of the adult population is overweight - and up to 15% of the children.

Warned WFA deputy-managing director Stefan Loerke: “Advertising is being targeted by activists because it’s very visible and an easy win. We reject totally the simplistic cause and effect model.”

He cited the case of the Australian government which is currently mulling a total ban on advertising all food and snack products to children. Loerke fears this policy will gain momentum over the next eighteen months as the World Health Organization drafts its global strategy on diet and physical activity having first consulted each of its member nations.

The WFA plans to contribute to the consultation process by expanding its Advertising Education Forum – a database on advertising and children. This will be extended from European-only to global coverage, with new input from the US and Canada. The three year-old database will go global by March 2003.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff