A four-year study of more than 1,200 youngsters performed by the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that children whose parents let them watch R-rated movies are more likely to smoke. Participants were in sixth grade when they started the study, and researchers interviewed them a total of eleven times over the course of the study. They were asked questions about the availability of cigarettes in their home, whether smoking was allowed in their home and whether their parents let them watch R-rated movies and videos.
On January 26, the New York Times examined "The Epidemic That Wasn't" -- breathless news reporting from the 1980s that predicted an epidemic of irreparable damage to inner-city children whose mothers used crack cocaine. Actually, it turns out, the so-called "crack babies" are doing fine.
Federally-funded TV ad promoting abstinence-only sex education.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is poised to end "a six-year-old battle between career EPA scientists" who want to regulate a chemical linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women and children, and the White House and Pentagon, where officials oppose setting a drinking-water safety standard for the chemical, perchlorate. Guess who's likely to win?
One of my favorite critiques of our ad-saturated modern world is in "Infinite Jest," the epic novel by recently-departed author and essayist David Foster Wallace. In the novel's not-too-distant future, time itself has become a corporate marketing opportunity. There's the Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar and the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment. That's not to mention the Year of the Yushityu 2007 Mimetic-Resolution-Cartridge-View-Motherboard-Easy-To-Install-Upgrade For Infernatron/InterLace TP Systems For Home, Office, Or Mobile, which is often abbreviated.
The novel's system of Subsidized Time is hilarious ... and you can almost imagine it really happening. At least corporate-sponsored years wouldn't present the disclosure problems of today's stealth ads -- marketing messages that masquerade as entertainment or news content.
The Center for Media and Democracy believes that all advertising should be as clearly announced as the Year of the Trial-Size Dove Bar. That's why we just filed a comment with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is debating how its sponsorship identification rules apply to product placement, product integration and other types of "embedded advertising" relayed over television or radio stations.
In 2003, Commercial Alert urged the FCC to address product placement disclosure. "Advertisers can puff and tout, and use all the many tricks of their trade," the watchdog group wrote (pdf). "But they must not pretend that their ads are something else."
Especially, we would add, when that "something else" is news programming.
"We do not want children to smoke," British American Tobacco (BAT) declares on its website. But the company that describes itself as the "world's most international tobacco group" routinely violates its own voluntary international marketing and advertising standards, according to a July 1, 2008 BBC-TV This World investigation.
Corporate-funded "educational" materials about healthy eating distributed to British schools have been criticized by Britain's Food Standards Agency, the Department of Health and dieticians' groups. "It's bad nutritional advice, which could give children wrong ideas about food at a very impressionable time," said Richard Watts of the Children's Food Campaign. The campaign is "assembling a dossier" on such materials, to prod the government to act.
Sears has entered into a first-ever deal with the United States Military to market a new line of officially sanctioned, military-styled clothing to men, women and boys.