• Fast Food, Liquor Suits, Marketing to Kids Top Ad Execs' Concerns
  • October 14, 2004
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • What's on the minds of advertisers these days? Among the topics raised at the inaugural Advertising Week in New York City on September 20-24, 2004 were the threat of class-action lawsuits against fast food and liquor companies, which some fear will turn these industries into the next Big Tobacco, and the increasing resistance to marketing to children.

    Panel members discussing "Advertising and the First Amendment," focused on how the advertising industry can protect itself against large-scale attacks from plaintiffs lawyers and the government. "Food is seen as the new tobacco," said Adonis Hoffman, counsel for the American Association of Advertising Agencies. Panelists said marketers need to arm themselves with knowledge of the law and prepare contingencies, just as their attackers have been doing in recent years. "The industry really has to get active if they're going to succeed in fighting these issues," said Dan Jaffe, head of government relations for the Association of National Advertisers.

    Mary Engle, associate director of advertising practices at the Federal Trade Commission, voiced a similar warning regarding advertising to children. "Take a page from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and execute an Extreme Makeover," Engle told a group of lawyers, marketers, and advertisers at a National Advertising Division workshop. But Engle also ruled out the possibility of direct action by the FTC, stressing that she was speaking for herself as an attorney and the parent of a 7-year-old, not necessarily as a representative of the FTC.

    Significance: Even though a New York federal court soundly rejected a proposed class action suit alleging that McDonald's was liable for making kids obese, food-related lawsuits are apparently still viewed as a serious threat for advertisers. The FTC also has its eye on fast food companies. For example, as reported in the June 14, 2004 issue of [email protected], the Commission recently sued fast food chain KFC for deceptive advertising. And despite Engle's reassurances, the FTC has targeted marketers to children as well. As reported in the June 28, 2004 issue of [email protected], the FTC has gone after nine companies and five individuals for making allegedly unproven claims that their products could help children lose weight.