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Research magazines, newspapers, mailers, internet ads, television, billboards and any other advertising medium for food ads targeted to kids. Distinguish between ads that are promoting healthy products to those that are promoting unhealthy products. Evaluate the tactics that the food companies use to convince kids and parents to buy their products. Give your opinion about what is good and bad about what you discover.
Write 500-750 words about your research and opinions concerning food advertising and children.
.“Research shows that when companies are promoting brand-oriented messages to children, [kids] make very long-lasting and deeply held emotional connections to the brand,” says Andrew Cheyne, a researcher at the Berkeley Media Studies Group. “So this form of marketing allows for kids to make lifelong brand preferences at a very early age. Not only are the fast food companies making lifelong customers out of children, but they have the ability to go after the childrens’ children as well through intergenerational brand preferences. This form of marketing is a very serious concern.”
In a 2011 study of Santa Clara county, which banned toys and other- non-food items from fast food restaurants’ kids meals, researchers found that food options in that county became healthier after the ban compared to counties that didn’t have to follow the rule. When they couldn’t offer toys with high calorie, high-fat meals, Santa Clara restaurants began offering more healthier options to go with the giveaways.
“Kids cannot recognize the intent of advertising. When you add in popular cartoon characters, you are further blurring the line,” says study author Cara Wilking of the Public Health Advocacy Institute (PHAI). Processed food packaging that display images of popular culture characters kids like and recognize. “Unilever (a consumer goods company) says they are going to improve their marketing to children, but they have a loophole for packaging. When they put Dora the Explorer on Popsicle boxes, it certainly seems like advertising to kids. If that’s not, what is?” says Cheyne.
A new study published in journal PLOS One revealed that compared to nationally televised advertisements from leading fast food restaurants targeted at adults, those that marketed kids’ meals were more likely to include toy and other giveaways, and less likely to feature the food products sold at these chains. Between 2009 and 2010, when the scientists conducted their analysis, nearly all of the fast food ads –99%–that were aired nationally on children’s TV channels such as Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon, were from McDonald’s and Burger King, and 70% of them included toy giveaways, frequently linked to child-friendly movies, to promote their product.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, food marketing cannot be false, deceptive or unfair. But there are other, more specific, self-regulations out there for ads related to kids. The Beverage Business Bureau (BBB) runs a Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) that provides marketing guidelines for companies on how they should advertise products to kids, and many volunteer to self-regulate their campaigns based on these guidelines. One of these bedrocks asks companies to recognize that children do not easily discern between products like toys and games that are associated with a company’s primary products — in this case, fast food. That means that the toys may actually hold more allure for younger consumers than the food itself. While that’s certainly a boon for corporations, it may not be so benign for kids, who could end up developing life-long unhealthy eating habits.