Case | HBS Case Collection | February 2012 (Revised March 2014)

Sweet Deal—Industry Self-Regulation of Breakfast Cereal Advertising to Children

by Felix Oberholzer-Gee, Dennis Yao, Britta Kelley and Lizzie Gomez


In response to growing concern about childhood obesity, in February 2006 the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) announced an initiative to examine its self-regulatory program on children's advertising. The existing program was a voluntary cross-industry program that monitored advertisements directed to children. However, the program did not stipulate which products companies could or could not advertise to children. In response to calls for action on childhood obesity, the CBBB was considering a number of approaches, including revising children's advertising guidelines, but staying within the basic parameters of the current program. Alternatively, the CBBB was considering launching a new self-regulatory program in which participating firms would constrain the amount of their children-targeted advertising of less-nutritious products.
It was widely believed that children's food advertising was a major contributor to childhood obesity, and within the food-advertising category, considerable attention was directed to advertisements of children's presweetened cereals. The major ready-to-eat (RTE) cereal manufacturers, such as Kellogg's and General Mills, were supporters of the CBBB self-regulation programs and were invited to participate in the CBBB initiative. Each manufacturer had been taking different individual approaches to address the concerns of childhood obesity. The case discussion focuses on what actions General Mills should take with respect to the CBBB initiative and on its own.

Keywords: Food; Advertising; Ethics; Food and Beverage Industry;


Oberholzer-Gee, Felix, Dennis Yao, Britta Kelley, and Lizzie Gomez. "Sweet Deal—Industry Self-Regulation of Breakfast Cereal Advertising to Children." Harvard Business School Case 712-463, February 2012. (Revised March 2014.)