Monday, November 30, 2009

Understanding Food Advertising

Billions of dollars are spent each year on advertising food, and much of this is focused on specific markets. Food ads for breakfast cereals and junk food, for example, focus largely on the children’s market. Toys, comic books, giveaways, and polished commercials can hinder young people from making independent judgments on how to eat a balanced diet. Instead, their choices may rely on the direction of advertisers. TV advertising plays a prominent role, where cartoons featuring food commercials dominate children’s programming. Most of these emphasize PROCESSED FOODS—low in nutrients and high in CALORIES, SUGAR, SALT, and FAT. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discovered that less than 3 percent of advertising during children’s programs focuses on healthful food, such as fruit and milk. The AAP concluded that there is a direct link between commercials promoting high-calorie food and health problems, and in 1991 recommended a ban on food commercials geared toward children.
The Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit was founded in 1972. Composed of representatives from the media, ad agencies, and others, its goal is to monitor truth in advertising in radio, TV, and the printed word for children up to the age of 12, according to self-regulating guidelines. It will review material before it is publicized upon request. The group provides a forum for information exchange and relies on a panel of academic professionals to provide expertise on the impact of images on children.

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