Despite the fast food industry’s conscious effort to ease off running Food Advertising to Children ( ie advertisements for junk food to children), there are still vast amounts of junk food advertising out there aimed at young people. There are of course rules and regulations that have been put into place when it comes to advertising food to children in the USA, Canada and Australia. Many companies have even taken it upon themselves to adhere to a code of conduct when it comes to advertising their products. The fact of the matter is, these rules need to be there to help stop childhood obesity.
One in three children in America is overweight, a harrowing figure that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. The best way to do this? Preventing it before a child’s weight becomes an issue. Food Advertising to Children is an issue that has been with us for years but it is only this year that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) along with other companies grouped together to write a letter to congress about the regulations of food advertising to children, basically putting restrictions on advertisements that promotes foods with too many calories or with too much sugar.
The regulations that the FTC are trying to put in place are not even about completely cutting out junk food advertising to children, but instead placing limitations on them. Despite this, some of the world’s largest food producers have protested these limitations and are creating their own proposals in the hope that these will let them pass the regulations without having the laws set out by the government.
In Australia, an organization has been created to outlaw unhealthy food advertising for children. The Coalition on Food Advertising to Children (CFAC) are an active force in working towards banning junk food advertising to children (specifically on television) so that younger children will not be exposed to the marketing of products that could have a negative impact on their health.
Voluntary Code of Conduction for Food Advertising to Children
Although companies like CFAC exist, and even though companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Hershey and Kellogg are participating in a slight injunction in junk food advertising to children, that’s all it is – ‘slight’. Some companies have managed to escape the rule of not advertising junk food to children by advertising to families instead.
Basically, there is a major flaw when it comes to cutting out advertising for junk food for children. This flaw comes from how shows are categorized. If food advertisements are placed in the breaks during ‘family shows’ they are not regarded as a high a risk as adverts that are shown during commercials breaks for children’s TV shows. Yet the adverts are still being exposed to children with vulnerable minds, and it is the positive portrayal of the food that could have a detrimental effect on children’s health in the future.
Researchers that have looked into the link between obesity and junk food advertising have criticized self-regulated rules that have come from various junk food giants across the globe. The main reason for this criticism is the fact that these regulations do not cover a whole spectrum of media outlets, but just television alone.
It has to be taken into account that advertisers have not restricted their advertising to just television, but their adverts can now reach a wider audience via the internet. It can sometimes be through the offer of a prize, or the chance to play games online that entice children into looking at a product for a prolonged amount of time, and there are certainly no restrictions on that. There are opportunities for young children to vote on their favorite flavors of drinks, cereals and snacks, and yet they don’t see it as advertising, just a chance for them to have their voices heard.
McDonald’s and Burger King both have games on their websites that expose children to their products even more, and while the kids may sit and enjoy those games, they are playing them without being aware that they are being advertised to. Advertised ‘at’ would be a more appropriate way of describing what they do, as these advertisements are being thrust at children and young people, sometimes quite discreetly (i.e. through the promotional online games) and sometimes less subtly.
For example, in Australia young children are being sent free food vouchers for fast food outlets. It is schemes like these that have a large contributing factor to kids’ health, not just in Australia but across the world and predominantly in the United States where childhood obesity is most prevalent. Giveaway toy promotions also are another reason that fast food appeals so much to young children, so it is the responsibility of those who care for them to help.
There are Direct links from Childhood Obesity Levels to Food Advertising to Children
Many junk food and fast food companies that have said that they would remove certain junk food advertising to children from the television and internet have taken a different approach. Instead, these companies are currently changing their products slightly to make sure they have a decent nutritional value and adhere to health guidelines. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s a step in the right direction and if it means that advertised products out there can be decreased in sugar or fat content, it is better than giving children highly sugary snacks.
Thanks to active groups such as the Federal Trade Commission and CFAC along with the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) – a group of 65,000 paediatricians that are against junk food ads – the exposure of young children to junk food advertising is slowly but surely decreasing. Will it have an impact? Only time will tell. It is just important to remember that we don’t need to succumb to the advertising in front of us.
We also don’t need to let our children be so easily led by these commercials either. By creating a healthy, loving environment for your kids, even if they do see adverts that are clearly advertising foods that are high in fat, sugar, calories or all of the above, as parents you can feel the satisfaction of knowing that you feed your children well and that they are leading a healthy lifestyle.
Finally, unlike TV networks and large web portals, Gourmet Ads network as such has always focused on an age demographic of 25 years plus and as such the vast majority of our clients advertising is reflected of this. As such we’re much more likely to run an advertising campaign for a wine client than a junk food ad. There is no doubt that Food Advertising to Children is something that our industry needs to address.