The Kaiser Family Foundation has just issued a report on the online marketing of food products to kids. Looking at 77 websites from the likes of M&Ms and PopTarts, the study found that the sites overflow with clever engagement devices, like advergames (73%), sweepstakes (65%), on-demand TV ads (53%) and incentives to buy (38%). On the other hand, only 27% of sites provide information about healthy eating.

These findings are important in substance to nutrition advocates. But there are important lessons here as well for all non-profits who seek to engage their constituencies via the web. Say what you will about the message, you've got to acknowledge the smart online engagement techniques employed by candy and snack food merchants … tactics not limited in their effectiveness to kids … or snacks!

Indeed, Kaiser worries that online marketing, precisely because it can engage its targets so deeply, might be far more worrisome than TV advertising, which so far gets most of the attention from concerned parents and advocates.

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