Written by: Kristiina Yang
In an effort to combat America’s escalating childhood obesity problem, the Walt Disney Company, together with First Lady Michelle Obama, announced on June 5 its plan to remove junk-food advertising from its kids’ programming by 2015.
This initiative, presented by Disney CEO Robert Iger at the Newseum in Washington, will require companies advertising food and drinks to meet a set of nutrition standards in accordance with the government’s dietary guidelines. By 2015, when the full ban is slated to be in place, such companies must either reformulate their products or they will be cut off from advertising on all of Disney’s programming.
Disney is a wide-reaching and influential media company, including amongst its many divisions, a leading film studio, the ABC broadcast network, and multiple cable channels. The ban on junk-food advertising will primarily apply to its programming for children, which accounts for millions of dollars of revenue for the company each year.
While this initiative may represent a loss of money for Disney, it is not expected to be a significant amount relative to the company’s total operations. This small cost is seen as a smart business move for the positive publicity that this initiative will afford the company.
When a food or drink product meets Disney’s nutrition standards, it will receive a Mickey Check, a symbol also newly introduced as a part of Tuesday’s announcement. Additionally, Disney plans to revamp its menu items and offer more fruit and vegetable options at its domestic theme parks by next year.
Disney is being lauded for its acknowledgement of media’s heavy influence on children, particularly in junk-food advertising, as well as, its commitment to battling childhood obesity. Such was the draw for Michelle Obama’s involvement, who has made fighting childhood obesity a cornerstone of her time in office.
In her statement at the press conference, Obama praised Disney remarking, “This is a major American company, a global brand, that is literally changing the way it does business so that our kids can lead healthier lives. With this new initiative Disney is doing what no major media company has done before in the United States and what I hope every company will do going forward.”
This initiative is the first time that a wide-scale media company is taking control of what food products are being advertised to children. Some believe that with this ban, Disney may completely change the landscape of food marketing toward children with other stations such as Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network anticipated to take notice and act accordingly.