AdvertisingEffecting Childhood Obesity
Childhoodobesity has been one of the most explored issues in the contemporaryhuman society. This may have resulted from the effects that it has onthe overall health of an individual. Indeed, it has well beenacknowledged that the epidemic is a serious health problem that has apositive correlation with mortality and morbidity, not to mention thesocial and economic costs in the long-term. Unfortunately, the ratesof obesity among children in the United States have increasedexponentially in the last quarter century. Of course, it is wellacknowledged that obesity is a lifestyle disease, in spite of thefact that there are some genetic predispositions to its occurrence.This means that the ailment largely emanates from the manner in whichindividuals live with regard to the type of food eaten and amount ofphysical exercises undertaken among others. Nevertheless, scholarshave further explored the link between lifestyle choices and obesity,especially with regard to the effect that advertising has on thelikelihood of getting obese. While there may be varying opinions, itis evident that adverts have a role to play in heightening thelikelihood for getting obese among children.
First,it has been noted that children are targeted by advertisers as aresult of their considerable buying power either via direct purchasesthat they make on their own or the pressure that is exerted on theparents particularly with regard that is bought from restaurants andgrocery store. With regard to unhealthy foods, it is noted that videoand television industries play a fundamental role through directadverts of foods to children, as well as encouragement of sedentarybehavior (Darwin 319). Indeed, other studies have shown that thelevels of TV viewing have some effect on the children’s foodpreference responses to TV commercials on food (Mason 88). Studiesshowed that upon viewing some food commercials children who viewed TVmore chose considerably higher numbers of food items that werebranded compared to those times when they watched toy commercials.Further, they chose more branded items than children categorized aslow television viewers. On the same note, the two categories couldrecognize more food commercials compared to toy commercials (Mason88). These studies are even complemented more by other researchesthat have shown that television ads formed a probable but smallinfluence on the food preferences of children. More evidence hasshown that there is a correlation between the advertisement of foodand the requests that children make for the purchase of the same,brand preferences, as well as overall nutritional intake. Theseeffects may be explained by the variations in the development of thecognitive processing capabilities for the processing of the contentof adverts. Indeed, children have little or no cognitive defenseagainst messages incorporated in adverts and it is common for them totake up the messages in such adverts as face value (Warren et al796).
Ofcourse, the major question revolves around how marketers do this. Itis noted that children make up the prey, where their consumer loyaltycomes off as the prize in heightening arms race. Indeed, marketersexpend enormous amounts of money coming up with strategies that wouldidentify the predilections of children, as well as take advantage ofthe children`s vulnerability (Rushkoff 91). These strategies work fora while, after which the children and youth come up with defensemechanisms, thereby forcing marketers to research on these defensesand develop entirely new countermeasures. Irrespective of how muchmedia-savvy children become, they always lose the game simply becausethey have taken the brands’ language as the defining culture, andinternalized the notion that the stakes pertaining to theirpurchasing decisions are seen as real (Rushkoff 95)
Sohow do adverts get people hooked onto products that may not even behelpful to the buyers? As much as the marketers are supposed to uselanguage to persuade the buyers, it is noteworthy that they have tobe careful with the manner they use words or rather the claims thatthey make since they can be used against them in courts of law (Lutz112). In essence, they simply use words that seem to be making aclaim pertaining to a product while making no claim at all (Lutz112). Such words (which are given the name “weasel”) make theproducts appear helpful, or to have other desirable qualities withoutmaking any express statement regarding such traits. Scholars havenoted that children find a large number of commercials attractive, inwhich case they would have high brand awareness pertaining to suchproducts, as well as positive attitudes regarding them. On the samenote, varied conventional techniques are used in attracting audiencesto enhance their product purchases including branded characters,celebrity endorsements, interesting and catchy production features,repetition, as well as premiums. O’Neill states that adverts aredivided into the few that manage to catch the attention of viewersand the whole bunch of others which never make it beyond theirbeginning (O`Neill 125).
Withregard to making adverts catchy, or capable of getting the attentionof the children, varied features may be inculcated including loudmusic, rapid pacing, action and movement, as well as sound effects(Calvert 209). As Warren et al (796) state, young children tend topay more attention to cues that are holistically and quicklyprocessed. Such cues come as extremely crucial in the recognizing ofbrand and product names. Unfortunately, children concentrate on thecues without paying as much attention to the accompanying informationof the product. Indeed, research has shown that the food preferencesof children are a reflection of the food adverts that they sawrecently, particularly in instances where they use specialaudiovisual and animation techniques (Warrens 797).
Advertisingand marketing could have been desirable if only the foods beingadvertised were healthy. Unfortunately, this is not the case asresearch has shown that a large proportion of adverts are forproducts that are supposed to be eaten in small portion, occasionallyor in moderation. Indeed, research shows that 34% of TV ads targetingchildren were for candy and snacks, while 29% were for cereal (Harvey611). Healthy foods such as dairy products took up only 4%, withfruits and vegetables having no place in adverts. Other studiesdemonstrated that foods that were advertised in the course of TVprograms that children watch most are nutritionally unbalanced andhave high sugar contents (Harvey 611). The consumption of those foodswould make the child go beyond the limits pertaining to sugar andsodium without getting sufficient iron, calcium, vitamin A and fiber.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that healthy foods are notadvertised. This raises questions regarding the reasons why advertsfor healthy foods are not as effective as those for unhealthy foods.Varied factors would account for these variations. First, it isnoteworthy that quite a lot of money is spent on advertising theunhealthy foods compared to the healthy varieties. This means thatthe unhealthy foods have wider reach and become even more popular. Inaddition, unhealthy food adverts differ in the manner in which theytry to change the behavior of the consumers or potential buyers totheir favor. Marketers of unhealthy foods usually make use of covertinteractive techniques where the place the brand alongside theadverts. The embedding of brands in entertainment enables thestrategies to exert immense implicit influence on the choices andmemories of children, without creating the notion that the childrenare being exposed to advertising (Mason 87).
Asmuch as it is acknowledged that businesses should operate in freemarket economies without the interference of the government, suchrights should be limited to instances where they do not compromisethe wellbeing of the vulnerable. It is worth noting that the rates ofchildhood obesity and similar complications are going up, while theamounts of resources used on child-directed television adverts forfoods and beverages have still been experiencing a rapid increase.This is unfortunate especially considering that these foods are knownto have extremely poor nutritional content, in which case they aredetrimental to the health and wellbeing of the children and thecountry at large. While it may be argued that it is theresponsibility of parents to determine the nutritional content of thefoods that the children consume, it is extremely difficult for themto accomplish such a task in the presence of so many colorful advertsfor unhealthy foods. This underlines the fact that such adverts are anational and societal issue rather than an individual problem. Inessence, it is imperative that proper measures are taken to combatthis problem. This would particularly be aimed at protecting childrenagainst adverts that take advantage of their vulnerability.
Therehas been renewed interest regarding the increasing rates of childhoodobesity in the United States and the world at large. This interestmay have emanated from the adverse effects that childhood obesity hason the overall health of an individual in both the current times andthe future. Indeed, has well been acknowledged that the epidemic is aserious health problem that has a positive correlation with mortalityand morbidity, not to mention the social and economic costs in thelong-term. Nevertheless, the increased rates of childhood obesityhave necessitated a determination of the aspects or factors thatcause the indulgence of children into sedentary lifestyle. Whilethere may be differing opinions, it is evident that advertisingencourages the sedentary lifestyle that eventually causes obesity inchildren. As much as advertising and marketing have a positive effecton the overall economic performance of a company and the economy atlarge, it’s desirability with regards to food is quite limited asit rarely popularizes foods that are healthy. Unfortunately, researchhas shown that a large proportion of adverts are for products thatare supposed to be eaten in small portion, occasionally or inmoderation. Indeed, studies have demonstrated that a large number ofTV adverts are for sugary foods such as candy and snacks, as well ascereal.
Healthyfoods, on the other hand, are left to fight using little or noadvertising with research showing that items such as fruits andvegetables have no place in adverts. Indeed, it is evident that foodsadvertised in the course of TV programs that children watch most arenutritionally unbalanced and have high sugar contents. Since thesefoods affect the health of the society at large, it is imperativethat the government takes actions to limit their reach.
O`Neill,Charles. A. The language of advertising. ConsumerNation: Wanting it, Selling it.Print
Rushkoff,Douglas. Which one of these sneakers is me? ConsumerNation: Wanting it, Selling it. Print
Mason,P. marketing to Children: Implications for Obesity. BritishNutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin,37, 86–91, 2012. Print
Calvert,Sandra. L. Children as Consumers: Advertising and Marketing. TheFuture of Children,Vol. 18 No. 1 Spring 2008, Print
Warren,Ron., Wicks, jan LeBlanc., Wicks, Robert. H., Fosu, Ignatius andChung, Donghung. Food and Beverage Advertising to Children on U.S,Television: Did National Food Advertisers Respond? J&MCQuarterlyVol. 84, No. 4 Winter 2007 795-810, Print
Lutz,William. With these Words I Can Sell you Anything. ConsumerNation: Wanting it, Selling it. Print
Therates of obesity among children in the United States have increasedexponentially in the last quarter century. Of course, it is wellacknowledged that obesity is a lifestyle disease, in spite of thefact that there are some genetic predispositions to its occurrence.In essence, it necessitates that one examines the elements that wouldincrease the possibility of individuals living these sedentarylifestyles, with advertising being some of the most explored.
Researchhas shown that a large proportion of adverts are for products thatare supposed to be eaten in small portion, occasionally or inmoderation. Indeed, research shows that 34% of TV ads targetingchildren were for candy and snacks, while 29% were for cereal.Healthy foods such as dairy products took up only 4%, with fruits andvegetables having no place in adverts. Other studies demonstratedthat foods that were advertised in the course of TV programs thatchildren watch most are nutritionally unbalanced and have high sugarcontents. The consumption of those foods would make the child gobeyond the limits pertaining to sugar and sodium without gettingsufficient iron, calcium, vitamin A and fiber.
Thereare varied reasons why adverts for unhealthy foods surpass those ofhealthy ones in terms of success. First, it is noteworthy that quitea lot of money is spent on advertising the unhealthy foods comparedto the healthy varieties. This means that the unhealthy foods havewider reach and become even more popular. In addition, unhealthy foodadverts differ in the manner in which they try to change the behaviorof the consumers or potential buyers to their favor. Marketers ofunhealthy foods usually make use of covert interactive techniqueswhere the place the brand alongside the adverts.