Consumer groups file complaint against PepsiCo over teen marketing

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"Frito-Lay has infiltrated the lives of teens by developing covert advertising campaigns centered on things teens love — video games, music, horror, sports, contests, and social networking," the complaint alleges. "This complaint demonstrates that Frito-Lay's intended audience is teens and that teens are uniquely vulnerable to the kinds of deceptive techniques used by Frito-Lay because of certain physiological and psychological traits associated with adolescence."

The complaint accuses PepsiCo and Frito-Lay of disguising their marketing efforts as entertaining videog ames, concerts, and other "immersive" experiences, making it more difficult for teens to recognize such content as advertising; claiming to protect teen privacy while collecting a wide range of personal information, without meaningful notice and consent; and using viral marketing techniques that violate the FTC's endorsement guidelines.

Simultaneously, the National Policy and Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity released a report delving into new digital marketing techniques used by food and beverage companies. The report highlights five new marketing strategies:

• Augmented reality, online gaming, virtual environments and other immersive techniques that can reduce conscious attention to marketing techniques and foster impulsive behaviors;

• Social media techniques that include surveillance of users' online behaviors without notification, as well as viral brand promotion;

• Data collection and behavioral profiling designed to deliver personalized marketing to individuals without sufficient user knowledge or control;

• Location targeting and mobile marketing, which follow young peoples' movements; and

• Neuromarketing, which employs neuroscience methods to develop digital marketing techniques designed to trigger subconscious, emotional arousal.

"Today's marketing efforts are increasingly multidimensional — simultaneously and purposefully integrated into a range of social media and online applications: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, gaming, and mobile communications," the report concludes. "The goal of contemporary marketing is not simply to expose young people to ads, but rather to foster ongoing engagement — by encouraging them to interact with, befriend, and integrate brands into their personal identities and social worlds."