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.
With a new Olympic-themed marketing campaign, Kellogg is trying to bolster its image by associating its products with elite athletes. Here’s Kellogg saying that eating Pop-Tarts will transform you into an Olympian. How many athletes do you think eat junk food before their one chance at Olympic gold?
Food companies shouldn’t be marketing their unhealthy products by associating them with physical activity and athletic performance. But that’s exactly what Coca-Cola did when it launched a TV ad during the Super Bowl that showed a young boy chasing his dream of becoming a professional football player — and then being rewarded with a full-calorie Coke after scoring a touchdown.
It’s great that Coca-Cola is no longer selling Coke in schools, but it’s time to stop all marketing to kids, including featuring kids in ads like this one:
Coca-Cola is training restaurant staff to “cap the tap” and push customers to get soda instead of water. They call it “pouring profits down the drain.” We call it promoting obesity. Big Soda shouldn’t be pushing sugary drinks on people who prefer water.
Shameful but true: Gatorade hired Olympic runner Usain Bolt to market water as the “enemy” of athletic performance in a mobile game targeting teens. Watch this video to learn more about the strategy behind the ad. PepsiCo should not disparage water.
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.