The fast food industry has become one of the most controversial and criticized topics in American but are consumers expecting too much? Fast food chains were created because consumers wanted quick, easy, low cost, while still good tasting food. The complaints the public makes about fast food restaurants are an end result of their original request. Fast food companies provide the quick, fast, inexpensive food they were designed to, rather than healthy and high quality food. Childhood obesity has been labelled one of the most serious public health issues of the 21st century.
Overweight and obese children typically grow into overweight and obese adults, who are susceptible to chronic complaints such as diabetes and cardio vascular disease. This challenge, according to some research, is compounded by advertising that adversely influences people’s food preferences and consumption patterns. In opposition, other research has supported the argument that junk food can be part of a balanced diet and that it should be the responsibility of individuals, including children, to make decisions about what they consume. The paper also looks briefly at the policy approaches to junk food in a number of countries and consequent actions taken to control or prohibit the influence of advertising.
The author is grateful for the constructive comments and suggestions made on a previous version of this paper by Ms Kaye Mehta, Senior Lecturer, Nutrition and Dietetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, Flinders University.
Thanks also to my colleagues, Dr Matthew Thomas and Paula Pyburne, for their valuable contributions. The World Health Organization (WHO) has labelled childhood obesity as one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Children who are overweight or obese are likely to grow into obese adults who risk developing a number of chronic non-communicable ailments, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. As these diseases add billions in health costs to national economies, it is clearly desirable both for individuals and for society overall, to devise and introduce policies which prohibit or limit their proliferation.
One policy intervention which can help to achieve populations with well adjusted weight levels involves introducing and maintaining strategies that encourage healthy eating habits. This paper considers some of the available evidence relating to the influence of the various forms of advertising in general, their influence on children and on consumption habits. The paper looks briefly at the policy approaches to junk food in a number of countries and consequent actions taken to control or prohibit marketing which may influence children’s eating habits. The paper concludes that overall, the Australian response has been cautious in relation to calls for more action to deal with obesity and its concomitant health problems.
What this amounts to is a situation where advertising works to affect purchasing in a variety of subtle ways, as is illustrated in the box below.
Repetition of messages which stress minor differences between products, for example, Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola, can influence unconscious decisions on what becomes a preferred product.
Even if consumers dislike some annoying advertisements, the constant repetition of messages can still influence their purchasing actions. The influence of advertising on magazines reached a point where editors began selecting articles not only on the basis of their expected interest for readers but for their influence on advertisements.
There are a number of other means which advertisers use to persuade and influence purchasing choice. Product placement: while this technique has been used in films for many years, it has become more popular since the 1980s. It was unusual for children to be targeted by advertisers until television became commonplace in homes during the twentieth century. The Internet has provided even more opportunity through websites which feature content aimed at children.
More disposable income is now available to many families, and consequently, parents appear more willing to buy goods for their children than in the past. In marketing to children, advertisers have encouraged the phenomenon of what has been labelled pester power.
According to the American Centre for Science in the Public Interest, pestering strategies undermine parental authority.
Additionally, advertisers attempt to address children as consumers in their own right and so develop strategies to build brand awareness and purchasing habits. Children must acquire two key information-processing skills in order to achieve mature comprehension of advertising messages. Children’s capacity to understand advertising is succinctly summarised by academic Dale Kunkel and his colleagues in a paper for the American Psychological Association in the box below. There are various pieces of advice given to parents about ways in which they can counter advertising strategies. A number of studies have concluded that advertising to children has produced disturbing results.
Considerable research has been conducted in Australia which complements that undertaken overseas. An earlier Australian Divisions of General Practice (ADGP) audit of junk food advertising found that over 99 per cent of food advertisements broadcast during children’s television programming were for junk food.
There are a number of arguments advanced against banning the advertising of certain products, such as alcohol and junk food. In other words, according to this view, people of all ages are able to form opinions about the merits of products advertised and make decisions, which they calculate are in their best interests, in relation to what they consume.
With reference to children, this type of argument can be manipulated to portray children as responsible consumers. Some of the industry arguments which support continuing junk food advertising and public health responses to those arguments can be seen in the table included in this section. One aspect of the responsible marketing and consumption argument is that, unlike tobacco, junk foods can be enjoyed in moderation without causing undue harm to children or adults. At the same time, as the Cancer Council of New South Wales points out, Cadbury spent millions of dollars creating a new Internet cartoon series featuring Freddo the Frog. In addition, the responsible consumption argument posits that manufacturers of junk foods have adopted conscientious attitudes to the marketing of food and beverages to children. In addition, seven companies are signatories to the Australian Quick Service Restaurant Industry Initiative for Responsible Advertising and Marketing to Children under 14 years which is modelled on the AFGC initiative.
Have voluntarily reduced our advertising during children’s television programs by 60 per cent. Introduced Happy Meal Choices which provided a way for us to help families select food options that can be part of a balanced diet but still ensure children enjoy their McDonald’s experience. Shifted away from toy focused advertising so that Happy Meal advertisements now concentrate on the overall experience of the Happy Meal. In 2010, Hungry Jack’s admitted to breaching the voluntary code in advertising a meal for children that previously had been considered to have an unacceptable fat content.
Another argument against the banning of junk food advertising to children claims that assertions about causal influences of food advertising on children’s diets and weight are flawed because they do not take into consideration other risk factors. If food advertising caused children’s weight gain and obesity, wouldn’t you expect to find an increase in advertising that parallels the increase in obesity? In a similar vein, a 2005 United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report which concluded that children see fewer television advertisements promoting food products than they did 28 years ago, noted that the incidence of childhood obesity more than doubled in the same period. In response to the FTC conclusions specifically, Susan Linn, a Harvard University psychologist, made the point that the volume of television advertisements could not be assessed in isolation. In a recent working paper for the Productivity Commission, Jacqueline Crowle and Erin Turner also agree that research suggests that the link between television viewing and childhood obesity is tenuous.
A number of defenders of junk food advertising maintain current regulations are sufficient to ensure that the food advertised in children’s television time and the way it is advertised does not contribute to obesity.
ACMA’s final report on the CTS, which led to the introduction of new standards in 2010, paid some attention to this type of comment. In addition, Access Economics comments in relation to a variation on the fat tax theme, that there is no evidence introducing tax concessions for healthy foods may be any more desirable than taxing junk foods.
Buy Zithromax for treating bacterial infections, skin infections, sexually transmitted infectious diseases, urethritis. Compared with being very sedentary, being physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week reduces the risk of developing or dying of heart disease. Choose foods that name one of the following ingredients first on the label's ingredient list (see sample in figure 4).
Stian Ytterdahl of Lorenskog, said that his friends wanted to punish him for being "too active with the ladies," according to Scallywag and Vagabond's translation of Romereskes Blad. Gibby, also known as Hostgator Dotcom (yes, he was paid to legally change his name) sold skin space for as much as $1,000 and as little as $75. They complain about the ingredients used, where and who the ingredients come from, the preparation process, and the foods low quality and unhealthiness.
Customers complain that the food is unhealthy and makes them fat but continue to eat there constantly. Industries buy ingredients that are inexpensive have high yield amounts so food can be sold at a low price.
Asking industries to provide healthy, high quality, good tasting, fast, and inexpensive food is unfair. You wouldn’t expect to be able to walk into Outback and have your burger ready for you in three minutes and cost a few dollars. As a consequence of this research, there has been considerable advocacy which has urged governments to place limitations on the advertising of junk foods, particularly to children. It considers also arguments which maintain that junk food can be part of a balanced diet and that the food, non-alcoholic drink and advertising industries can be entrusted to market these types of products responsibly without the intervention of government, or with minimal government intervention. In particular, the paper notes recent Australian Government approaches to dealing with this issue and the stance taken in favour of advertising regulation by the Australian Greens. Arguments that the junk food industry voluntarily and responsibly limits the exposure of children to excessively manipulative promotion of its products appear to have been successful in maintaining a largely self- regulatory environment in Australia.
The first group of studies examines advertising at the micro level by considering the ways in which it seeks to persuade or manipulate consumers.
These meanings in turn, shape consciousness and behaviour subtly by sanctioning some forms of thought and behaviour while de-legitimising others. These include advertorials or infomercials, which are advertisements presented as legitimate news or articles.
Carmaker BMW pioneered this technique in a series of eight short films produced for the Internet from 2001. One example of this practice was the use of the Audi RSQ concept car in the futuristic action film, I, Robot.
In recent times, as more people have added subscription television to their entertainment fare, more opportunities have been created to market products to children on channels, such as Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network, which deliver children-specific programming. This has been defined as the constant demand for parents to purchase items, be they clothes, toys, gadgets or various other goods (as the illustration below shows). First, they must be able to discriminate at a perceptual level commercial from non commercial content; and second, they must be able to attribute persuasive intent to advertising and to apply a degree of skepticism [sic] to their interpretation of advertising messages consistent with that knowledge.
One study revealed that by the age of two, children may have beliefs about specific brands. That is, a McDonald's hamburger advertisement is likely not only to make it more probable that a person will buy a McDonald’s hamburger in preference to another brand, but also that the person will buy a hamburger per se.
Results indicated that children were significantly more likely to prefer the taste of low-nutrient, high-energy foods when a cartoon character appeared on the package. Food companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing and advertising, in order to maintain and increase market share. The ADGP found it disturbing that no contrasting healthy eating messages were promoted on television. The main categories of junk food advertised, according to the ADGP, are shown in the following illustration.
Comments by a dietician with regards to the nutritional value of the Kellogg’s products surveyed are included as part of the Cancer Council research. The Cadbury Company maintains, for example, that its products can be enjoyed as treats and as part of a balanced diet. They provide fun and enjoyment as treats or refreshment, and are valued for their functional benefits. The marketing features puzzles, games and activities embedded within the cartoon where children can be involved in the cartoon’s development. The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) claims it has developed a responsible marketing initiative. McDonald’s has a reputation for being a responsible advertiser built up over the past 35 years.
Hungry Jack’s marketing manager justified the decision on the grounds that the company had business commitments to which it was required to adhere. A number of studies have concluded that it is generally currently cheaper for people to purchase energy dense highly processed foods than healthier options. See guideline "Let the Pyramid guide your food choices" for sensible sizes and numbers of servings. If you eat foods high in saturated fat for a special occasion, return to foods that are low in saturated fat the next day. Now, Gibby is trying to sell ad space on his body to raise the $4,000 needed to remove the ones on his face. Fast food industries delivered the initial request of fast, cheap, effortless, and tasty food but are now being told to add healthiness and quality to the list. If higher quality ingredients were used the prices would rise and customers would complain. This is despite the findings of national and international studies that indicate more action may need to be taken, and the imposition of various bans and taxes in other countries.
The second group of studies takes a societal view in examining ways in which advertising, and the mass media overall, may help to concentrate economic and cultural power in the hands of a few corporations and individuals. Advertisements in fact place less emphasis on communicating specific product information and more on communicating the social and symbolic uses of products. An article that put the reader in an analytical frame of mind did not encourage the reader to take seriously an ad that depended on fantasy or promoted a trivial product.
The films follow a mysterious stranger who transports passengers from one place to another (for the right price, and always in a BMW). This is because they not only influence their parents' buying decisions, but they are also the adult consumers of the future.
Two to six year olds can recognise familiar brand names, packaging, logos and characters and associate them with products, especially if the brands use salient features such as bright colours, pictures and cartoon characters. Many advertisements associate physical activity with the products and highlight the health benefits to be gained from their consumption.
Nutrition guidelines developed are that children’s meals should reflect general principles of healthy eating with particular reference to limiting saturated fats, sugars and sodium in meals.
We adhere to the global McDonald’s standards for communicating to young people, which require us to communicate to children balanced food choices, encourage physical activity, provide nutritional information for our foods and engage subject matter experts and informed third parties to help guide our efforts for children and families. Think of a generation growing up watching segments about guys sleeping with their girlfriend’s sisters.
UK food and drink ad spending has been falling in real terms since 1999 and is now roughly at 1982 levels, even while rates of overweight and obesity have been rising. One group was exposed to junk food advertising and it was found at the conclusion of the monitoring period that this group made a lesser number of healthy food choices than the other groups involved in the study. In 2005, it concluded as part of the review of the CTS that it was difficult to define what benefit would be gained from banning junk food advertising in children’s television viewing times. For those that accept this is the case, the idea of imposing fat taxes appears to have merit as an effective means to reduce the consumption of unhealthy foods without resorting to bans. Not everyone agrees with the supposition that taxation can be a solution to the consumption of unhealthy foods.
Effectively, this means that in a consumer-oriented society, people define themselves as consumers and they are persuaded that they gain a fundamental gratification from consumption. Snack bars from this manufacturer are too high in sugar and fat, particularly saturated fat.
The next step, seen often in mid-twentieth century magazines, was commissioning articles solely to attract readers who were good prospects to buy products advertised in the magazine. While the makers of these bars mostly claim they have a fat content of less than ten per cent, a large amount of that fat is saturated and some trans fats may also be included.
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