By Heather Callaghan
There has been some controversy over marketing ads aimed at children…and, what to do about it. (Stick with me here)
A new study in JAMA Pediatrics is pointing fingers at fast food companies for not making wellness attempts better known to children.
Lead study author, James Sargent, MD said:
The advertisement would be deceptive by industry standards, yet their self-regulation bodies took no action to address the misleading depiction.
The fast food industry spends somewhere between $100 to 200 million dollars a year on advertising to children, ads that aim to develop brand awareness and preferences in children who can’t even read or write, much less think critically about what is being presented.
So are children really not able to identify apples and milk anymore, or is it completely understandable? A video below depicts the children’s responses to a Burger King ad.
What the study is trying to point out, reminds me of this satire from Parks & Recreation:
But, just like this satire, do the researchers understand that Burger King purposely marketed their “apple fries” that way? Duh. They received a “D” from Food Facts for the ingredients in the caramel dipping sauce that comes with the apples. High fructose corn syrup – so natural and healthy for kids!
On the other hand, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver tried to show how many children cannot identify basic vegetables. Heavy handedness and TV editing aside, this clip also speaks for paltry education and little exposure by reading. Yet, public schools constantly have health campaigns that stress eating well. There’s a disconnect somewhere. What’s the real problem?
The researchers above aptly pointed out brand marketing techniques like toys in kids’ meals. In the end, they appear to want the meals themselves and the ads restricted. Will that help?
The problem is state-corporate pressure to accept and carry the torch for behavior modification. Especially on children who do not get a choice. It’s an incredibly burdensome expectation. Plus, it’s clearly a conflicting tug-of-war.
The bottom line for fast food companies and their marketing techniques – is simply their bottom line. They are attempting to dodge health policy changes and reharvest their failing millennial market with “wellness” foods. Millennials are the ones having kids now and are leaving fast food places in droves.
Taco Bell forgot about children a long time ago. However, they drastically felt the loss of millennials, which is exactly why they rolled out a breakfast menu on March 27th. They are also trending as the “cool friend” to millennials by humorously interacting with them on social media. I didn’t need articles to alert me to that – I’m the target market!
I’m not denying the predatory nature of fast food companies – economically barren food deserts are a mecca for them and they jam their foods with refined and addictive ingredients (MSG much?). A child doesn’t have much food choice, so naturally they’re going to crave fast food – it’s designed that way. And it’s a natural response from a child – not a morally wrong or abnormal response that science needs to probe heavily. Also, who are all of them to determine what’s healthy? Is that why people get fast food? Is pasteurized milk and pesticide apples sprayed with preservatives a better alternative?
It all boils down to behavior modification under the banner of public health. Specifically, adult behavior modification. Just like with fast food companies and entertainment morals, it’s always a choice – this or that. Why? Why – when real attempts to change things and allow people to eat better are undermined and called kooky and unscientific. I doubt it’s really about helping obesity rates and public healthcare costs – after 50 years and no end of research, health issues continue to increase. And why place the burden of critical choice on young children? Obviously, with all the public health exposure, something is not reaching them. Oh yeah, they don’t have a choice.
I’ve just sampled from five different tentacles trying to get in on your child’s personal food life. A child who cannot get into a car and drive to get food (hopefully), who isn’t doing the shopping (hopefully) and who cannot read or write. Why do the government, fast food corporations, entertainment industry, school systems or even science have anything to do with your child’s food plate? The actual intents behind the new “healthy” policy push are a whole other story.
Here are some parents who decided what to serve and how to present it:
Photo by Neeva Kedem
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