Advertising ‘junk food’ to children

Anyone in advertising who believes in its power has to be alive to the idea that a ban on ‘junk food’ advertising may now be appropriate. My issue is with the practicalities beyond the headlines. For starters what do we actually mean by junk food? is there a workable definition for what is a remarkably glib term? And what do we mean by advertising to children? Is it advertising that targets children, advertising that uses certain sales techniques to appeal to children or advertising popular amongst children? As we all know much advertising that is popular amongst children is not aimed at them and not placed in airtime when we expect them to be viewing. My caution is simply that we need to recognise a ban on advertising ‘junk’ food to children may be a political inevitability – but could well prove practically ineffective. Moreover, there is something downright wrong about any society that bans the advertising of ‘junk food’ to children but still permits it to be served everyday at school.

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4 Replies to “Advertising ‘junk food’ to children”

  1. Exactly.
    In principle the idea is reasonable, but advertising should not be used as a scapegoat for the neglect/ignorance of parents and society

  2. The blame is on all of us, but it is mostly on the brands themselves. We sell whatever–that’s our job. It’s the coroporations who decide to make the products in the first place.

  3. My view is that this is bourgeoise set of chattering classes standards, hence it is ok to advertise cars that kill people because they are ok! but not food because some food is not ok! This is not ethics it’s synthetics and therefore a manufactured set of values. Rather metaphorical I know but I often get quite frustrated that “advertising” is scapegoated in this manner. Advertising does not force people to do anything, it does not force people to binge drink, or smoke, or eat fried chicken. This is not an area of asymmetry of knowledge viz. the companies know that certain foods can be harmful if not eaten within a balanced diet but the customers do not. This is a situation whereby the public knows what is good and bad for them but chooses to act in a manner that the chattering classes see as inappropriate.
    Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.
    I think that quote’s based on the Christian Bible.
    Rant over.

  4. Most people understand crisps, sweets, burgers, chips = bad, and serving these to children on a regular basis is not a good idea. The problem comes with food where the difference is subtle or hidden, aided by food companies & marketeers being deliberately ambiguous. I’m talking about ‘juice drinks’ – the important word there being ‘drink’ which gets around the fact it is not purely fruit juice. “Strawberry (flavoured) yoghurt (style) dessert” – which neither contains strawberries or yoghurt. This list could go on. As marketeers we are responsible for helping the food companies promote this ambiguity. This is the true junk food.
    Just because an ad doesn’t run in kids TV doesn’t mean it’s not aimed at kids, otherwise why would it use gimmicks such as tie -ins with kid’s tv characters, free toys and childish graphics, imagery and language.
    Keeping the debate for whether advertising to children should be allowed at all the issue here is that we are talking about food (I haven’t heard of any child suffering from life threatening diabetes from having too many toys).
    Food is a basic need. A parents natural instinct from the moment their child is conceived it to nourish their child. This is one of man’s most powerful instincts. Now imagine the scenario below:
    -A child has sees an advert for the latest yoghurt (style) dessert with free Pokemon pen top, they ask mum to buy it for them.
    -Mum refuses (she knows this is full of sugar)
    -Child refuses to eat anything apart from new Pokemon dessert
    -Mum refuses
    -Child has used its power over mums emotions and not eaten anything for two days in protest
    -Mum’s natural instinct to get some form of nourishment into her child is too powerful; she gives in and buys the Pokemon dessert.
    This is why advertising junk food to kids should be banned – the kid isn’t interested in the dessert, but Pokemon. Mum will try and feed healthy food to child, but if things get difficult will just be happy that they’re eating at all. Being a parent is difficult enough, we all have a responsibility ( it takes a village to raise a child and all that), and especially those parents not educated enough to read the small print.

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