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A. U.S. lobby group is fighting proposed restrictions on advertising to children, saying tighter rules would hurt the U.S. economy.

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1. Junk food may be bad for kids, but it's really good for the economy! Or so argues the Association of National Advertisers, a Washington, D.C.-based lobby group that is urging the White House to curb its enthusiasm for more restrictions on advertising many food and beverage products to kids. The so-called Sensible Food Policy Coalition, which is made up of advertisers, media sales organizations, and food and beverage manufacturers, says proposed restrictions could result in lower sales of about $30-billion (U.S.), and a loss of more than 74,000 jobs over the first year. Maybe the junk food industry should use a new slogan that leverages Americans' patriotism? Something like: "Grow the economy – grow your waistline!"

2. With fewer restrictions, maybe we can even see new ads for junk food inserted into old TV shows! Entertainment Weekly recently reported that 20th Television, which syndicates sitcoms such as American Dad!, was contracting with the California-based SeamBI (a.k.a. 'seamless brand integration') to digitally drop ads into its shows. So a spot for, say, the new movie Bad Teacher might appear in the background of How I Met Your Mother, playing on a TV that wasn't even in the original scene. So what if the scene takes place in, oh, 2007? SeamBI says it's the future of product placement. Sorry to ask, but are we the only ones amazed that someone is paying money to place mute TV ads in the background of old sitcom scenes?

3. We're not grumpy about that; it's not like we haven't had our milk. What are we talking about? This week the California Milk Processor Board introduced a new campaign designed to get women to drink more milk by suggesting it can help alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. But the tactic, created by the agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, includes a website (at that depicts men living in fear of their partners' irritability. Of course, that's basically ready-made controversy in a can. The fact that the New York Daily News on Thursday quoted a (female) professor of medicine on the efficacy of milk for dealing with PMS probably won't quiet the critics. We'd make some comment about people being too sensitive, but – well, you know.

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4. We just wish Marshall McLuhan were still around to give us his take on those ads. Next Thursday will mark the 100th anniversary of the seer's birth, and we're cheered by the dozens of events being mounted around Toronto this year to celebrate the occasion. Here at Persuasion, we consider him something of a patron saint (yes, we know Wired magazine has a similar claim on him), but we've been disappointed to see the ad community all but ignore him during this centenary. Sure, he pointed out the corrupting effects of advertising, and the fantastic absurdities within many ads, but he also called advertising "the greatest art form of the 20th century." Of course, he probably wasn't talking about junk food commercials.

Simon Houpt

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About the Author
Senior Media Writer

Simon Houpt is the Globe and Mail's senior media writer, charged with covering the industry's transformation. He began his career with The Globe in 1999 as the paper's New York arts correspondent, covering the cultural life of that city through Canadian eyes. More

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