Walt Disney Joins Fight Against Obesity!
The Walt Disney Company has taken on a new role, which has nothing to do with entertainment business, but everything to do with the burgeoning issue of childhood obesity in the country. It has introduced a new set of nutritional standards for advertising on its television channels, radio stations as well as websites. The biggest blow of these revised guidelines would be felt by major Disney advertisers like Capri Sun drinks and Kraft Lunchables meals. Both the companies offer candy-based, sugared cereals as well as other fast food, which doesn’t comply with the revised guidelines issued by the entertainment conglomerate.
1) The Announcement
The Disney initiative was announced at a press conference, held in Washington, D.C., in the company of the First Lady Michelle Obama. Apart from introducing the revised advertising guidelines for various TV channels, websites, and radio stations, the company is also going to “reduce the amount of sodium” in the meals served to children at Disney theme parks. The Disney has promised to reduce the sodium presence by 25% in all the children’s meals, 12 millions of which are served every year at the theme parks. Disney also informed that it also has plans to trim down advertising during children’s programs telecast on networks such as ABC and Disney XD. The Disney announcement comes right at the heels of New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on jumbo-sized soda drinks in city restaurants. However, it will be not before 2015, that the company will implement the new guidelines because of pending contracts with various advertisers.
2) Mickey Check
As an incentive for manufacturers who comply with the government standards of limited calories, Disney has introduced “Mickey Check.” Under this scheme, Disney will allow the products, meeting health criteria in terms of saturated fat, sugar, and sodium, to display a Disney logo of Mickey Mouse ears and a check mark, on their packaging. The logo will say, “Good For You – Fun Too!” An official release, in this regard, informed, “The Mickey Check will appear on licensed foods products, on qualified recipes on Disney.com and Family.com, and on menus and select products at Disney’s Parks and Resorts.”
3) No Loss is too Big
Taking a different route from other companies, Disney has chosen to forego a portion of its advertising revenue in order to play its role in building a healthier America. Although, the company has not admitted to how much revenue it would be losing with the revised guidelines, it made fairly clear that the benefits of such a decision were far more than the loss. Robert A. Iger, Disney chairman, said at the press conference, “The companies in a position to help with solutions to childhood obesity should do just that. This is not altruistic. This is about smart business.”
4) Following the Federal Cue
There is no doubt that it is the proposed recommendations of federal regulatory authorities in the past one year that have inspired the new advertising standards of Disney. The proposals were aimed at the food industry to change their marketing strategy from targeting children with cereal, soda, and fast food products to something less counter-productive. In fact, recent research has proved that fast food advertising makes children more obese. Also the fact that about one-third of our children are overweight or obese, there is more cause to worry. Now since the food companies haven’t cared two hoots about the federal request, support from companies like Disney, which are ready to change their advertising standards for healthier Americans, is like a shot in the arm for the federal government.
5) The Reactions
With such a noble gesture, it is no surprise that the policy makers and public health advocates are heaping praise on Disney, although, there are still others who are skeptical about the impact of such a campaign. Margo G. Wootan, nutrition policy director at the “Center for Science in the Public Interest,” said, “Disney’s plan has put it far ahead of its competitors. This limits the marketing of the worst junk foods, but it won’t mean you’re only going to see ads for apples, bananas and oranges, either.” Kelly D. Brownell, director at the “Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity” at Yale University, is sitting on the other side of the fence, as she said, “Here comes Disney with yet another symbol, and it’s too early to say whether this will simply add to the chaos and confusion or actually help steer parents and kids as they shop.”
6) Michelle Obama Speaks
The First Lady, who joined Iger during the press conference was looking excited about this new turn in the events. She told the press, “I am thrilled that Disney is stepping forward in such a big way to stand alongside America’s parents. This new initiative is truly a game changer for the health of our children.” She further added, “Just a few years ago if you had told me or any other mom or dad in America that our kids wouldn’t see a single ad for junk food while they watched their favorite cartoons on a major TV network, we wouldn’t have believed you because parents know better than anyone else just how effective and pervasive those advertisements have become.” So, obviously, she said furthr, “I’m thrilled that over the next couple of years, when our kids tune into their favorite shows on Disney channels or they log onto the Disney website, they will no longer be bombarded with unhealthy messages during those commercial breaks.”
Well, Disney has shown the way, but how many would be willing to walk on it, remains to be seen. But at least the company has shown that business and social interest can be kept separate if there is enough will to do so.
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