AMA – The Grinch That Tried to Steal Halloween

  • I was standing in-line at Safeway this morning and saw a great display of Cadbury Halloween treats stacked right at the checkout. I was particularly interested by Cadbury’s partnership with UNICEF, which was clearly marked on all packages of mini-Halloween treats.

    I thought to myself “What a great fit!”, especially given that UNICEF probably only registers with the majority of Canadians during Halloween – when trick or treaters arrive at their door looking for candy and UNICEF donations.

    Apparently, in return for using the UNICEF logo, Cadbury Canada (now part of Kraft Canada) through its School House Project is donating $500,000 to help UNICEF build schools in Malawi and Rwanda. A great cause, with a natural link to an event and the brand. Or so I thought.

    A few minutes later, as surfed at the Globe and Mail site, I saw an article about the criticism Cadbury is drawing from The Lancet, which is published by the American Medical Association (AMA).

    Apparently, the AMA thinks that UNICEF sold-out in letting Cadbury use its name and logo to promote Halloween candy. Concerns are centered around the impact of candy on Canadian kids.

    A few observations:

    1. This association has been in place for three years. Why the attention now?
    2. $500,000 = 50 million pennies.
    3. Kids want candy at Halloween – not celery. It would be interesting to see what proportion of doctors actually hand out “healthy” snacks at Halloween.
    4. Most brands have been trying to find worthy causes that fit their brand and allow them to increase their exposure at retail. Look at the number of pink products in-store today. Cadbury should have the same opportunity to “do good”.
    5. How many times have we heard about medical professionals being influenced by perks and kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies? A bit of the pot calling the kettle black in my mind.

    It would be a shame to have UNICEF or Cadbury to walk away from a partnership such as this because of bad press.

    Corporate Social Responsibility is important in our industry and if these partnerships allow brands to sell more product – then these initiatives will continue to snowball drawing other brands to support a range of good causes.

    Press like this only deters the great strides already being taken by our industry – and we’ve only just begun.

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