May 4, 2018
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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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