On the day that the Obama administration had to ruefully acknowledge that the unemployment rate is rising again – to 9.2% in June – the US Association of National Advertisers tried a clever tactic that attempted to leverage renewed fears about joblessness to advance what probably ranks as the ANA’s No. 1 public-policy concern these days.
The ANA produced a study purporting to show that a cross-agency federal proposal to curtail marketing of certain products to kids could translate to the loss of at least 74,000 American jobs in the retailing, marketing and manufacturing of foods and beverages that the government believes contribute to childhood obesity.
Obviously no accident in its timing on Friday, the release was an attempt by the group (that's ANA president and CEO Bob Liodice weighing in on brand valuation, above) to find some new way to curry public and political favor after recent stiffening by the ANA – and its huge CPG-brand members – against continued hammering by Obama’s regulators on the issue of food and beverage marketing to kids.
Previously, industry executives seemed willing to suffer jawboning, and they (even if reluctantly) got on board First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” fitness initiative for kids.
But when four key federal agencies — the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — earlier this year assembled the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children, and proposed tough new “voluntary” guidelines (the public comment period on their proposal ends July 14th), industry leaders felt compelled to push back.
In response, a group of the ANA's heavyweight marketers calling themselves the Sensible Food Policy Coalition, which includes General Mills, Kellogg, PepsiCo, Nickelodeon- and MTV-owner Viacom, and Cartoon Network and Warner Bros. owner Time Warner, has been wading into the fight, intriguingly headed by former White House communications director Anita Dunn.
“We cannot tell if the new job data will move the needle in our direction” in terms of public perception and sentiment, Dan Jaffe, ANA’s executive vice president of government relations, told brandchannel. “But certainly everyone claims [the jobs] issue is at the top of their agenda. There is no way that anyone can think that this proposal will not be hurtful in regard to jobs, and certainly the IWG has utterly failed to show it would help kids either.”
The ANA analysis assumes that if the guidelines were implemented, current food and beverage ad expenditures would be cut by 20%, reducing total annual sales by food and beverage producers by $30 billion — and commensurate job losses — in just one year alone. Over a four-year period, the ANA said, the cumulative lost sales would be $152 billon, and the cumulative decline in jobs would be 378,000.
In a statement, the organization said, “Considering the very slow recovery from the global economic downturn and the high U.S. unemployment numbers, these figures dramatically show the potential damage the IWG guidelines threaten to cause.”
Those numbers seem huge when, after all, wouldn’t food and beverage manufacturers simply do more advertising of products that weren’t discouraged or forbidden, and wouldn’t food retailers just sell more of the other stuff instead? The ANA’s news release didn’t address that point.
But it's worth pointing out that the ANA commissioned IHS Consulting, a highly respected outfit, to put together the analysis. And this approach clearly is a novel tack that came out of the blue.
Your move, IWG.