Fast Food Ads and Kids

Posted by in Health Matters

fast food hamburgerYou have to give advertisers credit; they know kids. They know if a kid get fixated on something that there isn’t a force in this world to sway them. Fast food ads seem to be the worse of the bunch, according to researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

Deceptive Fast Food Ads

The research showed that advertisers failed in two areas that directly impact the food choices of children. First, they did not downplay the toys that make meal offerings attractive. Kids have to have their plastic superhero no matter what—especially if it’s pointed out in a flashy way.

Second, advertisers did not emphasize the healthy choices they could get at a fast food restaurant. For whatever reason, healthy foods don’t appeal to kids. However, the industry failed to help turn around this trend by making healthy choices appear fun—like the toys.

Instead, advertisers went for the money and threw their own industry’s self-regulation standards out the window. The literature has repeatedly shown the power that advertising has on kids. You know it. I know it. They know it. Fast food ads that feature unhealthy foods increase children’s preferences for them, explains a study by the University of Liverpool.

Deception Abounds

Of course, kids aren’t the only ones being duped. Adults fall for the ads too. We’re told that products are natural when they’re nothing of the kind. We buy the chicken that labels itself hormone free despite the fact that there aren’t any FDA-approved hormones for poultry.

Sometimes it’s even more subtle than that. The other day, I decided to make tacos for dinner. As my husband and I shopped for groceries, he reminded me to pick up some of those tamed jalapenos. Those tame jalapenos are the same ones without the seeds and membranes that contain the bulk of the capsaicin, the ingredient that makes them hot.

It was another way that manufacturers and advertisers play on the ignorance of the shopper, whether it is a kid at a fast food joint or an adult shopping for dinner. They call it branding. I call it misleading.

Honesty in Advertising

I don’t mean to rag so much on advertisers. We’re all trying to make a living. What I don’t like is the deception that forces a consumer to do her homework in order to see what’s under the hood. Call me idealistic, but I wish that people didn’t purposely try to deceive or lure.

It’s one thing if an adult falls for some clever advertising. We could know better when we shop. It’s something entirely different when the ads are directed at kids in a manipulative type of way, like fast food ads. Chris DR

photo credit: Burger with bacon and cheese via photopin (license)