Americans Against Food Taxes shows Astroturfing is still with us

Will we ever be able to stamp out Astroturfing in public relations?

Take a look at this Website and this that the group ran on television and posted to YouTube.

Hold on a second. “Americans Against Food Taxes?” The names on the About Us page suggest to me it really should be called Soft Drink Manufacturers/retailers opposed to a tax on sugar-packed soft drinks. And if this ad really did run on the Super Bowl, as the Website claims, a total of 95, 275 signups on their petition sounds to me like no real grassroots movement actually exists.

The whole thing smacks of disinformation and bad spin. Yes, the ad makes explicit reference to a tax on soft drinks, but look at everything else: the images of fresh fruit on the Website home page, a grocery cart packed with wholesome food, the domain “” (why not “” and the name of the group itself. Take them all together and the uncritical viewer could easily think that there is a broader tax being proposed on all food. No lies are told. But it is possible to mislead by how we frame an issue and (mis)direct attention.

I raised this issue with Martin Waxman and Gini Dietrich in the most recent episode of Inside PR.

What do you think?

Do you know more about this campaign than I do? Am I setting the bar of acceptable behaviour too high – or does this campaign in fact cross the line?

Also worth a look:


Health Habits



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  • When I first watched the commercial I was just listening to what it was saying and I thought it wasn’t right to tax certain foods. As I watched it over a few times I heard her say soft drinks yet the visual is saying something else. As mentioned in your post she is only walking by healthy foods, and soft drinks do not fit into a health food category. I looked at Americans Against Food Taxes page and saw that they list soft drinks in the about us section. It seems like all they care about is not getting soft drinks taxed. This post really opened my eyes to what Americans Against Food taxes is really about, and I do not support the route they are taking.

  • This ad is using sneaky and deceptive tactics. The ad tells us some things that are true but doesn’t tell us all the facts so we can see the clear picture. For me, that’s just the same as lieing. I didn’t hear the actress in the commercial mention any other food except drinks. Unless you’re a viewer that’s highly engaged and attentively watching the commercial, you would only hear the message that the advertiser wanted you to, and not pick up on the misframing of the issue. These types of ads are kind of similar to high fructose corn syrup ad, don’t you think?