Corporate Molestation: Marketing Directly to Children bypassing Parents
Greed was once described in 1980s as a good thing and the innovative driving engine of the American way of life. Soon, people started to think about this particular description and how it has resulted in the exact opposite and the miscategorization of such lofty terms, “innovative driving engine”.
Today people are much smarter and cannot be manipulated by the marketing media that anything they want us to do, is characterized as being a representation of “liberty”, “our freedom”, the “inalienable right”, or other marketing slogans that we would associate to our personal rights.
Large food corporations are the largest advertisers using marketing media and their manipulative tactics such as patriotism, or other instant emotional gratifications.
In the U.S., consumers spend approximately US$1 trillion annually on food. Processed food in the U.S. represents two-thirds of this figure, i.e. about $660 billion, with U.S. export of food to other countries reaching $70 billion per year.
As consumers grow increasingly removed from food processing and production, the role of product creation, advertising, and publicity become the primary vehicles for information about food. With processed food as the dominant category, marketers have almost infinite possibilities in product creation, emotional labeling, manipulative tactics, and directly targeting demographics.
With the adult population being more engaged via social marketing media and parents taking charge of informing and educating themselves about processed food, marketing companies representing the giant food processing companies are not turning their attention to children and driving a focused effort to target the very young demographics.
For children, the processed foods are packaged with innovative and manipulating marketing to appeal to children. Many of these processed foods have almost equal amount of nutrients as the cardboard packaging they come in. The ingredients almost always include processed sugars, salts, white flour, sweeteners, preservatives, colors, additives, and everything that would reduce the health and well being of children.
While everyone agrees that these ingredients are bad for both adults, as well as children, lobbyists of these giant good corporations argue that people have the “freedom” to eat what they want, and that the “parents” are ultimately responsible for what their children eat and not the food corporations to produce good, healthy, nutritional foods and snacks.
Nestlé, PepsiCo, Kraft, and Unilever are the largest food and beverage companies in the world. DuPont and Monsanto are the leading producers of pesticide, seeds, and other farming products while Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill process grain into animal feed. Bunge Limited is a global soybean exporter and food processor, while JBS S.A. and Smithfield Food are the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork.
These corporations spend about $10-$12 billion a year marketing food to children. About $2 billion is spent on ads promoting high-calorie junk foods with little or no nutritional value.
Marketing to children: Berkeley Media Studies Group
Most of what is marketed to children is processed junk food filled with sugar, salt, additives and preservatives – as a result 1 in 4 American children born after the year 2000 are obese and 1 in 3 are overweight which will often result in diabetes, congestive heart failure, enlarged heart condition, pulmonary embolism (fatal blockage of an artery), polycystic ovarian cysts, gastro esophageal reflux disease, fatty liver disease, hernia, erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, chronic renal failure, lymph edema, osteoarthritis and depression.
According to Cereal FACTS (research organization documenting cereals adverting to children), children’s exposure to TV ads increased from 2008 to 2011 for seven child-targeted cereals, including Kellogg Froot Loops (+79%); General Mills Reese’s Puffs (+55%) and Trix (+29%); and Post Pebbles (+25%) and that the total exposure to TV advertising for General Mills child and family brands increased by 10% for preschoolers and by 16% for 6- to 11-year-olds.
Cereal FACTS study also indicates that cereal companies also launched new child-targeted websites and increased banner advertising on third-party children’s websites for individual brands and existing websites, for instance Post introduced PebblesPlay.com to replace Postopia.com, and General Mills launched new sites for Honey Nut Cheerios (HoneyDefender.com) and Cinnamon Toast Crunch (CrazySquares.com) while, additionally, banner advertising for Kellogg child brands nearly doubled; General Mills increased banner advertising for Honey Nut Cheerios (+185%) and Lucky Charms (+58%) and began advertising Cinnamon Toast Crunch; and banner advertising doubled for Post Pebbles.
Cereal FACTS study: Cereal FACTS Report 2012
What is the solution, you may ask?
Children can indeed make informed decisions when parents spend the time to inform them and educate them on the risks associated to eating junk food and high-calorie snacks that have little or no nutrition.
Berkley Media Study also offers some great ideas that are quite innovative if allows to be implemented. Let's make real food more attractive to our children. Let's educate them about how much better real food is than junk food. Gardening in schools will also help children have more experience with real food. All of these can help make our children more aware of the dangers associated to advertising targeted at them to sell them high-profit junk food with little or no nutritional value.