PepsiCo’s Doritos facing FTC complaints over games, concerts

PepsiCo is facing complaints sent to U.S. regulators, accusing the company of using events and video games to disguise marketing efforts for Doritos. The Federal Trade Commission should investigate PepsiCo and Frito-Lay for deceptive and unfair digital marketing practices, including collecting teens’ personal information “without meaningful notice and consent,” according to the complaint filed today […]

PepsiCo is facing complaints sent to U.S. regulators, accusing the company of using events and video games to disguise marketing efforts for Doritos.

The Federal Trade Commission should investigate PepsiCo and Frito-Lay for deceptive and unfair digital marketing practices, including collecting teens’ personal information “without meaningful notice and consent,” according to the complaint filed today by the Washington-based Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog and two other groups.

“Frito-Lay has infiltrated the lives of teens by developing covert advertising campaigns centered on things teens love,” including video games and music, according to the complaint. The digital campaign influences teens to buy Doritos, a salty snack high in calories and fat that contributes to adolescent obesity, the complaint alleges.

PepsiCo is the world’s largest snack maker, controlling almost two-thirds of the U.S. salty snacks market. The company’s Frito-Lay North America unit, with brands including Doritos, Cheetos and Lay’s potato chips, accounted for $13.4 billion of the company’s $57.8 billion in global sales last year.

“We haven’t received a copy of the filing or any documents from the organizations,” Aurora Gonzalez, a Frito-Lay spokeswoman, said in an e-mail last night before the complaint was filed. “Without seeing the documents first hand, I wouldn’t want to conjecture on the allegations.” Gonzalez didn’t immediately return calls and e-mails today.

The FTC has received the complaint and will “review it carefully,” Elizabeth Lordan, an agency spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. The complaint is the first filed to the FTC about digital marketing to teens, Ms. Lordan said.

Food companies that once relied primarily on television to reach children are now using a variety of digital media in their marketing campaigns, Mary Story, a professor specializing in child and adolescent nutrition at the University of Minnesota, said in an interview.

“It’s a whole new frontier that parents are not really aware of, and there’s just not regulation at all about these new types of marketing,” said Story, who isn’t involved in the complaint. (Story directs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Healthy Eating Research Program, which has provided grant funding to the Center for Digital Democracy).

Within the food industry, PepsiCo stands out for “aggressively using the most sophisticated tools to target teens in far-reaching ways,” Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said in an interview.

“Pepsi has purposely created immersive environments that are designed to influence the attitudes and behaviors of young people, including at the subconscious level,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has come close to what Pepsi has done.”

The “immersive” Doritos marketing campaigns have included Hotel 626 and Asylum 626, online interactive games that provide a horror-film experience, and a website featuring video of pop singer Rihanna, according to the complaint. Such campaigns conceal the nature of the marketing and are deceptive, the complaint says.

There’s more! To read the full article in Advertising Age, click here.

Brands Articles

Your Marketing newsletters are changing

The Marketing Morning Filter is ending, but other newsletters are set to return

The List: North Strategic’s very big year

Prior to being picked up by MSLGroup, the PR shop brought in 15 new client wins

The biggest stories in Canadian marketing: 2016

A look back at the most read and shared news items from MarketingMag.ca

Media Profile teams with global PR group

PRGN welcomes Toronto agency as first Canadian partner

Stereo+ unveils brand overhaul from Lg2boutique

How to to introduce a 35-year-old chain to younger shoppers

The List: Wattpad’s evolving influence

The first of our selections for the biggest newsmakers of 2016

Sears Canada takes a gamble on groceries

Losses more than double in Q3 report, but food markets set to arrive

Big opportunities await in the new age of CSR (column)

Overwhelmed consumers want to outsource their consciences, but it requires deep trust

Mintel predicts packaging trends for 2017

Research firm says intelligent, experiential packaging will lead consumer experiences