Fast-food chains still under attack for marketing to kids

For a couple years now, marketers in the fast-food industry have been strictly patrolled over what they seel to children. They’ve been told to change their menus to include healthier options and also have been told to only advertise the healthier options. Some countries (mostly in Europe) have chosen to completely ban advertising to children under the age of 12 because their brains cannot consciously interpret the advertisement into knwoing what is real and not real. In North America, fast-food companies can only advertise the healthy options and cannot use toys or characters. Once the child is in the restaurant however, most of the cashiers dont ask the child if they do want the healthier option, and even if they do ask, most opt for the unhealthy snack.

Maurreen Morrison  at Advertising Age analyzed a study done by Yale where fast-food companies had to respond to results:

The study released by Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity called “Evaluating Fast Food Nutrition and Marketing to Youth” examined the marketing efforts of 12 fast-food chains in the U.S., including McDonald’s, Burger King, Yum Brands’ Pizza Hut and KFC, Wendy’s and Subway. The study said the fast-food industry spent more than $4.2 billion on marketing and advertising in 2009, according to Nielsen Co., focusing extensively on TV, the internet, social-media sites and mobile applications.

According to the study, children’s exposure to fast-food TV ads is increasing, even for ads from McDonald’s and Burger King, which have pledged to reduce unhealthy marketing to children. Compared with 2007, in 2009 children aged 6-11 saw 26% more ads for McDonald’s and 10% more for Burger King.

 Further, said the researchers, restaurants provide largely unhealthy defaults for the side dishes and drinks that come with kids’ meals. As part of the study, Rudd sent anonymous shoppers to various fast-food restaurants and asked them to order kids’ meals without specifying a side-dish preference. Although McDonald’s and Burger King show only healthy sides and beverages in child-targeted advertising, the restaurants automatically served french fries with kids’ meals at least 86% of the time, and soft drinks at least 55% of the time.

Fast feeders respond
The response? In a statement, Neil Golden, senior VP-chief marketing officer at McDonald’s USA, said that “McDonald’s remains committed to responsible marketing practices, including advertising and promotional campaigns for our youngest customers. Consistent with our 2006 commitment to the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Food Pledge, 100% of our children’s advertising in the U.S. features dietary choices that fit within the 2005 USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” The statement went on to point out that the company “primarily” advertises its “375 calorie four-piece Chicken McNugget Happy Meal, which includes Apple Dippers, low-fat caramel dip and a jug of 1% low-fat milk.”

Burger King issued the following statement: “As part of Burger King Corp.’s ‘Have it your way’ brand promise, we offer a variety of menu options that empower guests to choose items that are best for their lifestyle. In addition, as part of our ‘BK Positive Steps’ corporate-responsibility program, in 2007, [Burger King] pledged to restrict 100% of national advertising aimed at children under 12 to BK Kids Meals that meet stringent nutrition criteria.”

For a class assignment, my classmate and I went further in-depth for this subject.

Checkout the AdAge article here:


About sunnyvisa

I'm a student at Ottawa U, studying in Communications. I was born in Quebec City to a French Canadian and Italian family. I lived 9 years in the Netherlands and then moved to Ottawa. I love to travel, spend time with my family, and have fun with friends. You can always see me with a smile on my face :)
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