food and bev marketers spend more to reach kids where they live: On the internet

Food and beverage marketers are spending more than ever to reach kids where they live -- online. Games, cross-promotions with movies and TV, contests...it's the new frontier for marketers trying to reach the new generation. And it's a frontier where the regulators who usually monitor these sorts of things are not yet arrived.

That's what a Federal Trade Commission report released Tuesday has found. The largest food and beverage companies spent about $1.6 billion in 2006 on marketing their products to children. And more than two-thirds of the 44 companies responding in the survey reported having online activities geared toward youth.

The commission studied spending directed at children ages 2-17. A huge $492 million was spent marketing soda, the commission found, with a vast majority of that spending directed toward adolescents. Fast food restaurants reported spending close to $294 million, which was divided about evenly between children and adolescents. For cereals, companies spent about $237 million, with the vast majority of that targeted to children under age 12, according to the report.