“Food” Advertising: Their Tricks Are For Kids

The first day of school has come and gone for some of you and will be here in no time flat for the rest. And with it comes those inevitable trips to the grocery store for snacks and staples to feed the troops at home and send along in lunch boxes to school. I know you’re swamped right now gathering all the back-to-school basics and trying to figure out how to squeeze in one more chore before you melt into a puddle at the end of the day.

So I am going to keep it short and sweet this week and simply draw your attention to an article from Health Magazine about the low-down tricks that many food and beverage companies across the country are attempting to play on you and yours.

It turns out that they spend well over a billion dollars each year just trying to get your kid’s attention. That’s right — over a billion bucks! Their plan is to grab the attention of the most innocent people on the planet, snag them in their trap and then get them to harass you into buying their pure sugar/high fat/no nutritional value what-so-ever products.

And guess what? It’s working. But how do they do it? Simple. They buy licensing rights to the images of popular television and movie characters and then get someone in their advertising department to come up with a cute picture of whatever character is hot at the moment. Then they smack that picture on the front of their pure sugar/high fat/no nutritional value what-so-ever products and let nature take it’s course.

Fast forward to 5 P.M on a crazy weeknight when you are scrambling around the market with little ones in tow, desperate to pick up a few things you can put together for dinner before you head out to that P.T.A. meeting at 7.

Suddenly your little darling notices his hero Shrek plastered across the front of a box of Hostess Twinkies With Green Ogre Filling. Who knew Shrek made Twinkies? And with green ogre filling, no less? Since the boxes are typically placed kid height on the shelves in order to catch the eyes of the small-fry set, your little monster is sure to spot them right away. No coincidence there.

Oh, and since each Twinkie “treat”  contains a whopping 5 grams of fat, 19 grams of sugar and 145 calories, that special ogre filling may have your child looking like Shrek in no time flat. I wonder if they get childhood diabetes in The Kingdom of Far Far Away?

Next thing you know they have the Shrek Twinkies, Darth Vader Pop Tarts, Hulk Oreos or Spiderman Pringles clutched tightly in their hot little hands and won’t let go. A battle ensues. You fight hard but you’re tired and they promise to be good and helpful and quiet if they can just have THESE. Your kid wins. The junk comes home and gets consumed quick as you can say Sponge Bob Square Pants. And now they’re hooked. Mission accomplished.

This obnoxious ploy is carried out deliberately with a great deal of planning and forethought by these food and beverage giants. The characters look so friendly and fun and innocent that it’s hard to imagine that what’s in the box could be so bad for your child’s health. But don’t forget that looks can be deceiving and you can’t judge a book by its cover. Those old cliches were created for a reason. There is truth to them.

So beware out there. Take the time to really think about what you are buying. Have a plan mapped out in advance regarding the purchase of snacks that are yummy but better for your children. Don’t let Madison Avenue control your kids, your food budget or you.

To see the full list called out by Health Magazine click here. By the way: maybe that Shrek dude is not such a loveable pal after all  — he’s featured on 3 out of the 10 products mentioned.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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2 responses to ““Food” Advertising: Their Tricks Are For Kids”

  1. Sue Carney

    I linked to this piece from my fb page, “How Marketers Target Teens, Why It’s Not Cool, and What You Can Do About It.” (we tackle shameless ploys against kids sometimes, too.) You really hit the nail on the head. Very few people see what’s wrong with licensed characters hawking unhealthy food. Great piece!

  2. Nicki

    I dunno If I wanna eat ogre cream

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