Unilever will stop targeting kids in ads

Unilever, the food company that owns brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and Klondike ice cream bars, is vowing by year’s end to halt all advertising and marketing campaigns directed at children.

The new policy stems from concerns about rising childhood obesity, which the consumer goods company called one of the 21st century’s most serious public health concerns. Unilever cited data from the World Health Organization showing that 41 million children globally were overweight or obese in 2016.

Unilever’s plans include restricting both the content and placement of ads. While some child-appealing materials may show up on packaging and at stores, they’ll “only be used for products with a specific nutritional profile,” said the company, whose hundreds of brands also include Breyers and Popsicle.

“We’re changing the way we go about marketing and advertising our ice cream, food and drinks to children,” Unilever tweeted on Wednesday.

“By the end of 2020, we will stop marketing and advertising foods and beverages to children under the age of 12 in traditional media, and below 13 via social media channels,” Unilever stated in a blog post this week. 

The company also said it would limit its use of cartoon characters and would not use “any influencers, celebrities or social media stars who primarily appeal to children under the age of 12.”

Eighteen percent of children and adolescents, or more than 340 million people aged five to 19, were overweight globally in 2016, up from 4% in 1975, according to the WHO. 

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