May 20/Prism Insight-- The International Council of Beverages Association (ICBA), the worldwide trade association representing the non-alcoholic beverage industry, has adopted voluntary guidelines on marketing to children.

The Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo, the two largest global beverage companies, have agreed to implement the guidelines in all countries around the world by the end of 2008, the ICBA said.

The ICBA guidelines on Marketing to Children state that beverage companies voluntarily agree to eliminate the advertising and marketing of a wide range of beverages, including carbonated soft drinks, to any audience that is comprised predominantly of children under 12. The policy applies to TV, radio, print, Internet, phone messaging and cinema (including product placement).

Under the guidelines, other forms of marketing will also be reviewed, including sponsorships, presence in schools and P-O-P promotions by the end of 2009.

Calls to Pepsi were referred to the American Beverage Association, which said that the association supports the action.

"The non-alcoholic beverage industry produces a wide variety of beverages, all of which can be part of a healthy lifestyle," said Susan Neely, president and CEO of the ABA. "However, as parents and grandparents ourselves, we recognize that children may be more susceptible to marketing campaigns and may not always be able to make the right dietary choices for themselves. Parents are telling us they want to be the gatekeepers. We are listening and want to protect their role so that we can work together to help teach children around the world how to make more informed choices."

Coca-Cola released a statement that read, "We have actively supported the development of these guidelines and are delighted that the International Council of Beverage Associations has adopted them. We at Coca-Cola intend to apply them to all our beverages in all countries of the world."

The adoption of the guidelines follows similar principles outlined in the November 2006 Council of Better Business Bureaus' Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. Those guidelines took effect January 1 and were agreed to by a number of major food companies, including Coke and Pepsi, as well as McDonald's, Cadbury Schweppes, Campbell Soup Co., Kraft Foods, Kellogg, Unilever and others. The terms require the marketers to tighten controls when marketing to kids under 12, such as not advertising in elementary schools, not engaging in product placement deals in entertainment content and devoting at least 50% of ads to promote healthier dietary choices.

Enforcing voluntary guidelines has come with its challenges.

In January, McDonald's halted a promotion in Florida that promoted Happy Meals on the jacket's of children's report cards who were under age 12. The company stopped the promotion after one mother complained to the school board and media, drawing national and international coverage of the issue.

Susan Linn, the director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, said it all sounds "like a lot of smoke and mirrors."

"Self regulation in this country hasn't been working," she said. "It still looks like lots of products are being marketed to kids that shouldn't be. And they're marketed in ways to kids that aren't even covered in the guidelines. I'm not optimistic that this is going to do much."

She cited Coke's blatant product placement and advertising deals with American Idol, as a prime example.

"It's consistently a top-rated program for 2-to 11-year-olds, and the show is really about Coca-Cola. All these companies really make their guidelines based on their products and not what's best for kids, and there's nobody to enforce it. So it's hard to see that it's going to make a difference.

The new ICBA policy does not cover water, juices and dairy-based beverages because these categories are not represented by all ICBA members. The ICBA intends to issue its first report on theimplementation of the guidelines by the end of 2009.

From the May 27, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash