August 30, 2004
"[O]ur country has
allowed junk-food marketers - and not just fast-food companies,
but sugary cereals and high-in-calorie chips - to target kids.
'They do it on Saturday morning television. They have vending
machines in schools. Practically every brand-name product has
a Web site and kids-oriented products have Web sites and games
and other things to entice kids and get kids to want those products....
Jacobson says, 'Twenty-five years ago, the government tried to
get junk food advertising off of children's television, but they
were stopped by the toy industry, the food industry, the broadcasting
industry and the advertising industry. It's time to take another
crack at that.'"
One might expect the
food industry to target those they think will be more easily convinced
to buy their products; that's where the advertising industry comes
in. They use the broadcasting industry, and show commercials during
shows aimed at children and teens. It all sounds like good marketing.
So what's wrong? What are people upset about?
aimed at kids undermines parental authority and helps fuel the
epidemic of childhood obesity, according to a report issued today
by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
The volume and variety of marketing techniques has exploded, the
group says, as food marketers seek new ways of bypassing parents
and directly influencing kids food choices. Regrettably,
most of the foods marketed directly to children are high in calories
and low in nutrition, the group says. 'Parents are fighting a
losing battle against food manufacturers and fast-food restaurants,
which use aggressive and sophisticated techniques to get into
children's heads and prompt them to pester their parents to purchase
the company's products,' said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition
policy at CSPI and the report's author."
their parents to purchase the company's products." Teens
and young adults just go buy the products themselves. While a
lot of marketing is aimed at teens; much of the marketing is aimed
at kids--even toddlers--with the goal of creating product loyalty
in teens and into adulthood.
While advertisers are
being accused of undermining parental authority, it is often parents,
friends, and family that are responsible bringing the ads into
the home where the children have access to them every day. Here
is where the toy industry plays its part.
has the doll dressed up as a McDonald's clerk, feeding French
fries, burgers, and Sprite to kid-sister Kelly in a restaurant
playset. 'Unless McDonald's is paying you for ad space in the
playroom, leave this toy at the store,' Wootan said. Same goes,
she says for other junk-food ads disguised as toys, like Play
Doh's Lunchables kit, where kids are encouraged to assemble Play
Doh versions of Oscar Mayer's notoriously fatty and salty lunch
box items. The Oreo Adventure game on Kraft Foods Nabiscoworld.com
web site is one of many corporate 'advergames'. In this video
game, children's 'health' is reset to '100 percent' when kids
acquire golden cookie jars on a journey to a Temple of the Golden
Oreo. The Oreo Matchin' Middles shape-matching game, produced
with Fisher Price, turns playtime into a chance for companies
to cultivate brand loyalty and sell junk food."
Parents can say no to
the toys. Parents can teach their children proper nutrition. Parents
can choose not to give in when children ask repeatedly for junk-food
and junk-food related merchandise they have seen advertised. Parents
can even teach their children to look at ads and see them for
what they are. Parents can do everything right at home--but what
about at school?
"WEST PALM BEACH,
Fla. -- Krispy Kreme has offered to reward students with a doughnut
for every A on their report card -- up to six per grading period
-- sparking concern among school officials trying to fight childhood
obesity. Under one promotion, Krispy Kreme stores will give Palm
Beach County students in kindergarten through sixth grade a free
doughnut for every A on their report card. Another program has
students decorate posters of doughnuts with 'success sprinkles'
when children meet goals. The posters can be turned in for a class
set of doughnuts...."
While someone at Krispy
Kreme is getting a bonus for being a marketing genius, parents
and those in the health care industry are cringing at the thought
of food (and doughnuts at that) being offered as a reward.
"Meanwhile, 50 schools
in Palm Beach and Broward counties won a grant to begin a $1.4
million program to promote healthier lifestyles with nutrition
and exercise programs. The district is also offering healthier
school lunch menus."
One could call this a
The message from the
CDC, on the other hand, is quite clear.
"The U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that obesity rates
for Americans rose a staggering 57% between 1991 and 1999, triggering
a 6 percent increase in the incidence of diabetes. What is particularly
alarming about these statistics is the growing number of children
who are overweight -- 5.3 million, or 12.5 percent, of Americans
between 6 and 17 -- and the frightening health implications behind
these numbers. Obesity in childhood can lead to the development
of a host of medical problems, including atherosclerosis, hypertension,
respiratory infections, and sleep apnea."
While the food-related
toys and the Krispy Kreme promotion are aimed at tweens and younger
children, teens are not immune. Fast food chains are selling to
students in some high school cafeterias. Soft drink companies
are getting contracts with school districts and placing vending
machines on campuses across the country.
Questions of the Week:
How do you think toys (featuring brand name food items), and promotions
(like the one offered by Krispy Kreme) affect the choices young
children and tweens make about food? Do you think that ads, toys,
and promotions featuring unhealthy foods send a confusing message
to children who are being taught the importance of healthy eating?
What influence did these sorts of marketing techniques have on
your decision making when you were younger? What influence do
they have now? How could you use these same techniques to market
healthy foods to younger children? What techniques could you use
to target your peers?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum