Advocates for children are upset that Alloy Media and Marketing has run ads for prescription drugs from its Channel One website. Channel One provides free news and original programming to about 10,000 middle and high schools. Channel One is, in the opinion of many, a controversial in-school news program that makes viewing ads a compulsory part of the school day for grades six through twelve.
One of Channel One’s drug ads links to Acneheroes.com, a kid-targeted website created by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis to promote BenzaClin, a prescription drug for acne. The website features actor Cody Linley, who introduces himself as one of the stars of Hannah Montana, which airs on the Disney channel and is among the most popular television programs for children.
As part of its user agreement with schools, Channel One has pledged not to market prescription drugs to its young audience. Yet ads for the prescription acne medications Differin and BenzaClin ran on the Channel One website for at least one week in July. In August, an ad for the prescription drug BenzaClin was back on Channel One’s web site. Channel One has allowed this ad to very deceptive. There is no “advertisement” labeling above the “AcneHeroes.com” banner. If Channel One told kids it was an ad that was going to take them off the Channel One web site straight to the drug company’s site, then many kids might not click on it. By having users click on the ad, the drug company will know how many young people come to their web site from Channelone.com.
Critics complain that Channel One has a captive audience that should not be subjected to product manufacturer’s advertisements, particularly ads that tell kids there are simple answers to problems – all you need to do is buy a product and your problem is gone.
Inappropriate advertising by the pharmaceutical industry is, of course, not limited to children’s advertising. The industry has been criticized for employing tactics such as direct to consumer advertising of the cypher stent, and “ghostwriting”, where the drug-maker paid academic scientists to take credit for research articles prepared by company-hired medical writers. Legislation to curb the influence of these ads has been introduced in New York State and considered by the U.S. Senate.
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