Kiddie food purveyors like Kellogg were among the early creators of immersive online experiences like games and animations to engage children for extended periods, but no more, says the maker of Apple Jacks and Froot Loops. As part of a sweeping decision to limit marketing of certain products to children under 12, Kellogg Web sites dedicated to cereal brands and iconic figures such as Tony the Tiger and Toucan Sam will shut down after 15 minutes of viewing by youngsters.
As part of its settlement with children’s health and nutrition advocates, Kellogg has also agreed to limit its use of viral marketing, Web site games and mobile efforts aimed at kids under 12 that promote products not meeting its new nutritional standards.
“We will continue to use the sites,” said Kellogg North America CMO Mark Baynes during a press call this morning. However, he added, “There will be an automatic time out after 15 minutes.” Once the allotted visitation time has elapsed, an “automatic use break feature” will be triggered, and site visitors will be encouraged to go outside and get active, continued Baynes.
Kid-centric sites currently used to promote morning Kellogg vittles include AppleJacks.com, which allows visitors to create mashups with sounds and animated clips featuring characters named “Apple” and “Cinna Mon,” a dreadlock-adorned cinnamon stick. FrootLoops.com lets users navigate a tattered treasure map, watch commercials about tales of Black Beak the Pirate, and interact with a virtual Choose Your Own Adventure-style story book.
Such online efforts aimed at children under 12 could be affected by Kellogg’s agreement to stop integrating online activities like downloads, wallpapers and games when products don’t meet its new nutrition criteria. In its “Kellogg Company Marketing Commitment” document, the company promised to remove commercial clips or downloads not allowed to be shown to children in other media. The breakfast goodie maker also agreed to cease mobile and viral marketing campaigns targeting kids under 12 and stop sponsoring children’s communities.
The company also stated its intention to include healthy lifestyle messaging on brand sites, something already present on the Frosted Flakes site, which promotes healthy lifestyle habits, fitness and sports as part of Kellogg’s “Earn Your Stripes” campaign. “We do try and use our characters as a force for good,” said Baynes during the conference.
“We think in general Kellogg is definitely moving in the right direction,” said Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Program Manager Josh Golin. “But we’re skeptical of efforts to include fitness messages with products that are of poor nutritional quality.”
Kellogg’s attracted much media attention to its announcement today that it would curb advertising for products not meeting its adjusted nutritional guidelines on TV, radio, print and third-party Web sites reaching audiences comprised of 50 percent or more kids under 12. Those standards require a single food serving to have no trans fat, no more than 200 calories, no more than 2 grams of saturated fat, no more than 230 milligrams of sodium and no more than 12 grams of sugar. The company also said it would alter the presentation of nutrition information on product packaging.
“This builds upon our current practice of not marketing to children under six,” said Kellogg Company president and CEO David Mackay during this morning’s press conference.
Golin called Kellogg’s announcement to alter kid marketing efforts and recipes, “a settlement agreement.” In January 2006, the CCFC and Center for Science in the Public Interest, along with two individual plaintiffs, threatened to sue Kellogg and Nickelodeon-owner Viacom International as part of a mission to stop them from marketing “junk food” to young children.
The organizations have agreed to withdraw their notice of intent to sue Kellogg as a result of its new nutritional and marketing commitments. As for Viacom, there has been no decision made by the plaintiffs, according to Golin. “We have not decided what we will do with Viacom yet….Viacom did not negotiate with us,” he told ClickZ News. Viacom did not respond to inquiries for this story.
“There’s still a sense that marketing to children is television advertising, and that is really starting to shift,” said Golin. He continued, “But certainly there is not the same attention focused online as there is on television, and the companies have taken advantage of that.”