ABC Reports: Breakfast is Controversial

ABC Reports: Breakfast is Controversial
New ads for kids cereals are the latest target in the anti-free market obesity war.

by Todd Drenth
June 23, 2005

     General Mills new marketing campaign received a reality check on ABCs World News Tonight on June 22, 2005. ABC closed its newscast with a story on controversial ads that encourage kids to eat breakfast.

     Reporter Lisa Stark began the story saying that the ads are simply ads promoting breakfast, but also commented that the ads are aimed at children and the ad campaign comes in the midst of a huge debate over childhood obesity and criticism of companies that market sweetened cereals to children.

     Throughout the newscast, anchor Charles Gibson promoted the story with such comments as sugary cereal as brain food? and with obesity on the rise, is it all right to market sugary cereals to kids?

     General Mills new Choose Breakfast campaign consists of 10-second commercials promoting balanced breakfasts as part of a healthy lifestyle. In the two commercials ABC aired as part of the story, a balanced breakfast consists of a bowl of non-branded cereal, a piece of fruit, and a glass of milk or juice.

     No brand names or cartoon characters appear in the ads, which will run along with 20-second spots for kid-oriented cereals, according to a General Mills press release. General Mills cereals include Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, Trix, and Cocoa Puffs.

     Stark interviewed General Mills Chief Marketing Officer Mark Addicks, who said the company truly believes in the power of cereal. It's a great breakfast. It's a great nutritious way to start the day.

     Stark claimed that some nutrition experts say General Mills is wrong when it implies that eating any cereal for breakfast, even one high in sugar and salt, is good for you.

     To support that comment, she turned to an ABC News regular, Dr. David Katz of Yale Medical School, who called childrens breakfast cereals little better than candy you pour milk over that happened to have a multivitamin thrown in for good measure. As the Business & Media Institute has reported, Katz isnt exactly an independent expert because he is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which overstated obesity deaths and now has backed off its own study showing the new numbers.

     Although the story showed two mothers who made it clear they made the shopping decisions, Stark closed the story commenting that General Mills isn't marketing to moms while showing video of a small child in the cereal aisle at a grocery store. The little girl grabbed for a box of Lucky Charms, saying I want these. As the shot faded out on her hugging a box of Cocoa Puffs, Stark said, And the company knows its audience.

     ABC did not report on how many children go out and buy sugary cereals on their own.