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Complaint filed against PepsiCo's Frito-Lay for deceptive ads targeting teens

Consumer Reports News: October 19, 2011 09:08 AM

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Consumer groups have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against PepsiCo subsidiary Frito-Lay for what they allege are deceptive and unfair digital marketing practices that target teens.

The complaint, filed by the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Watchdog and The Praxis Project, calls on the FTC to investigate and bring action against PepsiCo and Frito-Lay. The complaint sites specific ad campaigns, including an interactive online game called "Hotel 626," and "Doritos Rihanna Late Night," a site advertised as the "darker, hotter, late-night side of Rihanna," which is accessed using a digital marker found on bags of chips, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that PepsiCo's digital ads were deceptive in the following ways:

  • Disguising its marketing efforts as video games, concerts, and other digital entertainment, making it more difficult for teens to recognize content as advertising.
  • Claiming to protect teen privacy while collecting a range of personal information without meaningful notice or consent.
  • Using viral marketing techniques that violate the FTC's endorsement guidelines.

"PepsiCo has used an arsenal of powerful online marketing tactics in these campaigns, including interactive games with story lines designed to heighten arousal, and instill fear and anxiety in teens," Jeff Chester, Center for Digital Democracy executive director said in a press statement. "The FTC must act to protect young people from the range of digital marketing and data collection practices tied to the youth obesity epidemic."

The complaint grew out of research for the National Policy and Legal Analysis Network to prevent Childhood Obesity, which was published in the report, "Digital Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents."

Consumer Groups File FTC Complaint Against PepsiCo for “Deceptive and Unfair Digital Marketing Practices” Targeting Junk Food to Teens [CDD]

Maggie Shader

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