What a great quote from Erma Bombeck.  And doesn’t it seem true?  Any parent can relate to the effect little dancing cartoons has on their children’s wants.  Have you ever bought a cereal with a chocolaty count or a box of mac and cheese with a  square, yellow dude on the package?  I’m sure if you did its because your kids had a voice in the choice.

The Count

The Count

Do you know that there’s Count Chocula lip balm and a Count Chocula Halloween costume?

And who would have thought that SpongeBob Squarepants would be showing up as Mac & Cheese?

Kraft's spongebob Macaroni & Cheese

Kraft's SpongeBob Macaroni & Cheese

According to BusinessWeek, Nickelodeon’s  SpongeBob character is now bringing in over 1$ billion a year in licensed products.  Many concerned with the issue of rising obesity rates in children are protesting the use of characters like SpongeBob  promoting  high fat, low nutrition foods.   The little yellow dude is being accused of making kids fat because his smiling face  graces the packages of products like Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, Breyer’s SpongeBob  Ice Cream, and SpongeBob Cheese Nips.

Nickelodeon appears to be trying to play both sides of the field with this issue by promoting healthy eating and excersise by SpongeBob thru programming, public service messages and web site content.

From BusinessWeek’s David Killey–

To make the scene more confusing for kids and parents, SpongeBob, which drives about $1 billion a year in licensed goods, is now featured on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Nabisco Fruit Snacks in new “Nicktritional” labels, doling out advice such as drinking lots of water and playing games like soccer for exercise. These are just the first products carrying Nicktritional labels, which Nick hopes expands to more Kraft products and to other food companies as well.

Nicktritional labeling is an idea driven by Nickelodeon, anxious to avoid becoming a lightning rod for childhood obesity. Nick spokesman David Bittler admits that its efforts, like SpongeBob touting healthy living habits, are sending mixed signals. He says the kids’ entertainment giant has been jawboning advertisers for over a year, trying to get its characters onto healthier offerings.

Apparently Nickelodeon has succeeded in reaching producers of healthier foods as SpongeBob and other Nick characters are now appearing on bags of spinach, carrots and some citrus fruits.

Carrots

This all comes down to Nickelodeon trying to do the right thing in order to not become a target of regulation that could seriously put a damper on their liscensing efforts.  So, my question is—how come Nickelodeon has to try and avoid these regulations?  Why is it  that parents don’t seem to be as “strong” as they once were?  I can still remember shopping with my mom and wanting Lucky Charms.  I did not get them and I have not been scarred for life.  It seems to me that the proliferation of liscensed products targeting children is a result of the parents not having the upper hand.  Dont’ you think that if parents would just say no a bit more often that issues like childhood obesity  wouldn’t exist?  Is it right to blame advertisers for using a technique that works?  The kids aren’t the ones with the paycheck.  The parents are.  Sure the kids may whine about wanting SpongeBob ice cream, but all mom or dad needs to do is say no.  Believe me, the kids will survive.  And to those who say it’s just too hard to say no when the characters are so prevelent, I say turn off the TV, avoid the mall and go outside.

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