How food ads are impacting kids in America

May 4, 2018

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Seeing a deliciously styled food advertisement can incite cravings in even the most savvy consumer.

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But food ads are especially impactful on children. Some argue advertising food to kids is entirely unethical because of their susceptibility.

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Marketing to kids is inherently unethical because of [their] inability to discern between marketing and reality.

— Taylor Billings, press officer for Corporate Accountability

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Research has shown that kids start to build brand loyalty from as early as 3 years old.

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A study found that children believed food wrapped in McDonald’s branding tasted better that a second brandless offering, which was the exact same food product.

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Marketers know what tactics will reel a young viewer in: Catchy jingles, celebrity endorsements and colorful characters are just some of the techniques used.

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The majority of foods advertised on TV are not particularly healthful, and studies have linked hours spent watching TV with a child’s risk for obesity.

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Countries outside of the U.S. have been more proactive about regulating food marketing, acknowledging the connection between the ads and obesity.

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In Ireland, for example, it’s illegal to broadcast ads for foods high in fat, salt or sugar to children 18 and under.

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But in the States, big food companies self-regulate their ads under an initiative that’s malleable and catered to their bottom lines over customer health.

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If the U.S. banned youth food advertising, advocates argue that kids would have a better shot at developing healthy relationships with food.

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If we teach kids that the way to select foods is based on what celebs tell us, or it’s a game or we want a toy, we’re teaching kids to eat for external reasons.

— Josh Golin of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood


Teaching kids about both marketing tactics and nutrition can help them be their own food advocates while decreasing the power of advertising.

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