Junk Food Injunction- Latest Edition
Message from the Editors
With the year quickly drawing to an end the Annual Parents’ Jury Fame and Shame Awards have found plenty of ads that parents are still unhappy about. In this edition we also showcase two videos highlighting the junk food marketing maze from a parent’s point of view and look at studies into marketing involving sports stars and in children’s movies. We focus on fast food facts and see what kids in Canada think about kid’s food.
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This year, the Coles ‘One Direction’ campaign has taken out the Shame Award for Pester Power at the annual Parents’ Jury Fame and Shame Awards. The parents who nominated it and the expert panel of judges which voted it the winner felt that it epitomised pestering by encouraging tweens and teens to buy junk food such as soft drink, chips and chocolates for a chance to win concert tickets to the world’s hottest boy band. Alice Pryor, the Parents’ Jury Campaign Manager said that Coles had missed an opportunity to highlight healthy food choices to shoppers.
The field of finalists for the Digital Ninja Award for online and social media marketing was strong with all three, Fanta, KFC and Slurpee, featuring apps that promoted junk food or sugar sweetened drinks. The apps engaged users in fun games or activities and included peer to peer marketing through ‘share with friends’ features. The winner, KFC’s ‘snack in the face’ app, features a simple branded game which promotes snacking and junk food. Players are rewarded with coupons and even free snacks if they complete games between 2 and 5 in the afternoon. It’s an easy to play game based on the angry birds games which are very popular with children.
For all the winners visit the Parents’ Jury website.
Food and beverages are high on the list of brands endorsed by the top 100 US athletes and many endorsements are for junk foods such as fast foods and soft drinks. A study found that LeBron James, from the National Basketball Association, Peyton Manning from the National Football League and tennis star Serena Williams had the most endorsements and were also the highest contributors to the marketing of unhealthy foods.
You might say that in Australia sportspeople have even more influence than other countries given our love of sport and the celebrity status of many of our sportspeople.
In a study of the State of Origin rugby league three game series, 233 minutes of marketing for alcohol, gambling and unhealthy food was found within 360 minutes of televised coverage. The final free-to-air telecast attracted over 2.6 million viewers, including 320,000 5-17 year olds. There were twelve unhealthy food or drink brands advertised using a range of marketing techniques including logos on the match ball, boards and banners around the field and commercial breaks. Brand and promotional messages which are integrated into a sporting match may not be subject to the same scrutiny or cognitive processing as traditional advertising especially by children under twelve who do not fully understand the commercial intent of sponsorship.
Bragg MA, Yanamadala S, Roberto CA, Harris JL, Brownell KD. Athlete Endorsements in Food Marketing. Pediatrics 2013 Oct 7.
Lindsay S, Thomas S, Lewis S, Westberg K, Moodie R & Jones S. Eat, drink and gamble: marketing messages about ‘risky’ products in an Australian major sporting series. BMC Public Health 2013, 13:719.
Anna Lappé, a US author and mother thinks she is doing a pretty good job of bringing up her daughter but the more she learned about the harmful impact of marketing to kids, the more she wanted to do something. She teamed up with Corporate Accountability International and the Food MythBusters coalition of leading food and farming organizations to make this video where she tackles the ‘parents should just say ‘no’ argument’. She calls on food companies to stop using cartoon characters to peddle food to kids and to keep food off kid’s TV shows and computers.
And this cute clip developed by the Rudd Centre for Food Policy & Obesity captures how food marketing undermines parents’ best efforts to keep their kids away from junk food.
Researchers in the US analysed the obesity-related behaviours in twenty top rating children’s movies produced in 2006-2010. The movies included Happy Feet, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up and Shrek Forever After. They found that when food was shown it was often in large portion sizes and over half of the time unhealthy snacks featured. As well, movies often showed sedentary activities including television viewing, using the computer or playing video games. The authors concluded that this type of messaging could influence children’s behaviour both consciously and unconsciously. They also found that stigma about body size, mostly overweight, was also prevalent in the same movies. These movies are sending children mixed messages by depicting unhealthy lifestyle behaviours on one hand and on the other mocking the effects of such behaviour.
Throop, Elizabeth M., et al. "Pass the popcorn: “Obesogenic” behaviors and stigma in children's movies." Obesity (2013): In Press
Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity has followed up their 2010 research into the nutritional quality of fast food menus and marketing inside restaurants and on TV and the internet with the release of Fast Food f.a.c.t.s 2013. They found:
- The nutritional quality of individual items offered with kids’ meals had improved. However, less than 1% of all kids’ meal combinations, 33 out of 5,427 possible meals, met recommended nutrition standards.
- Older children’s total exposure to fast food TV and internet advertising declined but fast food marketing via mobile devices and social media which is popular with teens has grown exponentially.
Fast foods ads to children focus on toys and movie tie-ins much more commonly than fast food ads to adults where pictures of the food itself are more dominant. These findings come from researchers in the US who looked at a year of fast food television advertising. Ninety-nine percent of the ads to children were for McDonald’s and Burger King. Both companies have signed up to food marketing to children guidelines that include a provision stating that food, not toys or other promotions, should be the primary focus of ads directed at children. The authors concluded that even in the children’s ads where the food advertised could be considered a ‘healthy’ alternative, ads gave little attention to the food.
How Television Fast Food Marketing Aimed at Children Compares with Adult Advertisements Bernhardt AM, Wilking C, Adachi-Mejia AM, Bergamini E, Marijnissen J, et al. (2013) How Television Fast Food Marketing Aimed at Children Compares with Adult Advertisements. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72479
Our attention was recently drawn to this article published in 2011 in which over 200 children in Canada were asked to talk about both ‘kids’ food’ and 'adult food’. When asked what they think of when thinking of kids’ food most often children referred to junk food and food that had lots of sugar, “I think sugary stuff… cause lots of kids like sugar”. Sugary cereals were also frequently mentioned, including reference to cartoon characters, a regular feature in the sugary cereal aisle in Australia as well. The authors also found a theme of “fun” for children’s food, with animal shaped biscuits or brightly coloured fruit snacks that kids can stretch. This was a theme lacking in adult food which was more often described as “boring”, “more spices… less fat less sugar… which takes out all the fun”. The main theme for ‘adult food’ was “healthy” and related to core foods particularly fruit and vegetables and meat.
The implications, that unprocessed fruit and vegetables are ‘other people’s food’ and kids’ food is processed food are worrying. As the author points out the category of kids’ food has been created to promote specific foods to children and segment the market to provide opportunities to develop more products.
We often hear parents express frustration at the limited choice and lack of quality of children’s meals when they eat out. Why can’t children’s meals be mini adult’s meals? Many children’s palates are familiar with a variety of flavours and their food should come from the same core food groups as we are offered.
Elliott,C “It’s Junk food and chicken nuggets”: Children’s perspectives on ‘kids’ food’ and the question of food classification. Journal of Consumer Behaviour 2011, 10: 133-140