Wall of Shame
Why do food companies use their best ideas to market the foods that are the worst for kids? They say they care about children’s health, yet they spend billions on campaigns like these. If you have examples of food campaigns that companies should abandon in favor of healthier products, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Thanksgiving-themed comedy “Free Birds” is more of an extended Chuck E. Cheese commercial than it is a family film. In the movie, a turkey named Reggie travels in a time machine back to the first Thanksgiving to keep his species from being slaughtered. He persuades the settlers and Indians to take turkey off the menu and replace it with pizza from Chuck E. Cheese. The company is also leveraging the movie tie-in by enticing kids with collectible wristbands, which are free with the purchase of any Chuck E. Cheese pizza.
Not to be outdone by candy companies marketing to kids on Halloween, Coke encourages those celebrating the holiday to forgo their usual Jack o’ lantern designs for these downloadable soda-themed stencils.
In another example of marketing disguised as philanthropy, McDonald’s hosts an annual “McTeacher’s Night,” in which overworked, underpaid teachers provide several hours of free labor taking orders and flipping burgers. The fast food giant uses the event to draw in students and, ultimately, build brand loyalty among kids. In return, McDonald’s donates a portion of the funds to local schools. The money can be hard for cash-strapped schools to turn down, and the news media often report on the night uncritically, focusing on money raised rather than the threat it poses to kids’ health.
PepsiCo’s video featured a badly battered woman being asked to identify her attacker out of a lineup of black men and a goat. After being taunted and threatened by the goat, the woman ran from the room, screaming, “I can’t ‘do’ this” — a play on words in reference to the brand, Dew.
The ad’s racial stereotypes and making light of violence against women have no place in any advertising, let alone marketing for products targeting young people.
Responding to widespread concerns from consumers and public health advocates, Taco Bell has done the right thing and agreed to take down an ad that ridiculed vegetables and the people who eat them. Intended for the Super Bowl, an event that adults and kids alike watch, the ad tried to convince people that bringing a veggie tray to game day is “a cop out” and “people will hate you for it.” The ad encouraged partygoers to instead bring 12-packs of tacos, loaded with calories, sodium and saturated fat.
As the public becomes more aware of the health problems tied to soda, they are drinking less of it. And marketers are responding with campaigns to reverse the trend. As the Public Health Advocacy Institute shows, this one from PepsiCo takes advantage of youth vulnerabilities to boost consumption among young people.
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me … a SpongeBob SquarePants chocolate bar? Companies say promoting candy to kids on holidays is an occasional exemption, but Halloween runs into Christmas, and Christmas into Valentine’s day, and Valentine’s day into Easter. Their “occasional” exemption lasts ¾ of the year. bit.ly/dump-the-junk
In spite of being loaded with sugar, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative have deemed Apple Jacks a healthy product.
Public health groups have lauded Disney for discouraging the use of its characters to market junk food to kids. But the company has made an exception for candy marketed during Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter or other “special occasions.” Since 25 percent of candy sales happen during these holidays and Christmas, Disney can do better. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has called on Disney’s CEO to close the loophole.