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Marketing To Children

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Kaitlin Schultz

April 20, 2005

Prof. Kovach

Response Paper

Marketing Children

Child obesity is a growing problem in today's society. "On average 28% of girls age 6-11 are overweight." Pediatricians are now seeing more and more children with high levels of cholesterol, high blood pressure, and adult on-set diabetes. In 1997 American children obtained 50% of their calories from added fat and sugar and only 1% of children's diets resembled the recommended proportions of the Food Pyramid.

The amount of money that is spent marketing to children is outrageous. Companies purposefully market to the young children's tastes in a variety of ways through package design, typefaces, pictures, and content. Key elements for successful marketing to young children are carefully and thoughtfully planned by companies. The entertainment, fast and friendly service, immediate gratification, familiar brand-names fun-to-eat, reasonable prices, value, and quality time are all fundamental basics. Companies justify their marketing as a "public service, expression of freedom of speech, and argue that the advertised foods are not inherently unhealthful, and emphasize that exercise -not diet--are the key to weight control. Company's claim that advertising contributes to nutrition education and argue that the primary responsibility for determining dietary intake rests with parents and caretakers." Unfortunately children are not with their parents or caretakers every minute of the day thus leaving time for them to fend for themselves while in school.

Large corporations have now turned to schools to really target youngsters and make a large profit in the process. Food marketers see young school children as an "unparalleled marketing opportunity." It's often hard to distinguish between commercial and noncommercial activities within schools. This has left many wondering if companies really have an interest in bettering the education in schools or just simply out to make money. After several studies were conducted, it was noted that no tangible benefit was see for schools, although benefits to advertisers was quite evident.

In many cases, financially strapped schools are receiving contributions from food companies in exchange for advertising. Quite disturbing that the law requires how children to come to a place 180 days out of the year where they must watch and listen to your advertising messages without interruption or competitions from others. Partnerships like this have enabled food companies to advertise in schools under the disguise of education. For example, Campbell Soups has offered a program called "Label for Education" that has encouraged children in schools to redeem soup labels for goodies such as basketballs, computers, and minivans. Because some schools are financially hurting, it is likely for them to be grateful for whatever aid they can get.

School cafeterias have problems when it comes to satisfying the nutritional needs of the children. Studies show that 50% of children's fat intake comes from whole milk, the former rules required school lunches to offer it and the dairy industry was able to block any change in that rule. Soft drink producers also blocked proposed restrictions on sales from vending machines, and fast-food companies won the right to continue selling items that had to meet nutritional standards only if they were sold as part of reimbursable school meals. Schools are then forced to offer foods that normally would not be considered beneficial to a child's diet. In 1995 Pizza Hut sold products in about 5,000 schools, a 20% increase in four years, and Taco Bell served about 2,000 schools (both companies are owned by PepsiCo.). Not to mention one school is actually licensed as a fast-food franchise, it pays royalty to the parent company.

The impact television advertising on children's health, emotional state, and dietary habits has long been cause of concern for several reasons: children watch television for so many hours, commercials are numerous and endlessly repeated, and children lack the ability to distinguish commercials from program content. Marketers understand that no child is too young to be targeted by television; many of these programs are linked directly to commercial products. For example, Burger King then McDonald's sponsored the public television show "Teletubbies" (show for toddlers). McDonald's distributed toys of the four characters in their happy meals. It is estimated that advertising for children has now reached over $1 billion. The most common advertised foods seen are not surprisingly low in nutritional value; products such as, presweetened breakfast cereals, candy, fast food, sodas, cookies, and chips. Its safes to say the money isn't being spent on advertising of fruits, vegetables, bread, or fish.

Another largely upsetting report found that food commercials stimulate "antisocial" behavior in children. "Commercials aimed to children are overly dependent on socially negative

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