The Effect of Food Advertisements on Diet
- Advertising , Fast Food , Food
How it works
Advertising exists because there’s a product a corporation wants to sell, and they want consumers to know about it so they can purchase it. This much is obvious. However, the influence advertising has on consumers’ daily lives is more significant than they may realize. This is due to advertising working in such subtle ways that consumers often do not even realize they are being marketed to when their choices are changed after coming across advertisements. When comes food advertisements, it has been determined to influence swaying consumers toward unhealthy choices. Not only does the food industry mainly target children with manipulative advertisements but also, targets low-income families and helps cause obesity in their income groups. For this reason, consumers need to take back control of their health by looking at how manipulative advertisements work, the problems they cause, and what can be done to dodge these harmful consequences.
Many food marketing techniques are designed to drive increased purchasing by consumers. According to authors Pierre Chandon, Professor of Marketing at INSEAD, and food psychologist Brian Wansink, food marketers use quantity discounts by encouraging consumers to purchase multi-unit packs or larger packet sizes at a cheaper price. The motive is to make the consumers supersize and stock-pile food in their homes. Stockpiling in consumers’ homes causes them to overeat, which is unhealthy and leads to obesity. According to research during the period that food companies were offering multi-unit purchase discounts, there was a 100 percent increase in orange juice consumption, while the consumption of cookies increased targets 92 percent (Chandon and Wansink 10). The study revealed that the qualities of the discounted food were manipulated so that it could be intensified cheaper to produce and sold at lower prices to earn revenue. This confirms that advertisement plays a substantial role in swaying consumers to buy unhealthy food.
How it works
When people are constantly exposed to images and text that talk about eating, be it in shops, fast food outlets, billboards, public transport, or even restaurants, it tends to trigger the urge and feeling of eating, even if the person was not feeling hungry at the moment (Kemps et al, 1192). Food advertising triggers cognitions or eating thoughts, and this, in turn, activates a person to correspond with a high motivation to eat. The more a person will view an advert about food, the more the person will be motivated to eat, and this results in an individual eating more than enough (Kemps et al, 1192). This is the reason why there has been an increasing rate of obesity. Based on Hofmann et al, food thoughts normally occur spontaneously without the person being aware (Kemps et al, 1192). When consumers are exposed to numerous advertisements, the urge is made aware to the consumer, resulting in them eating a lot and becoming obese. This confirms that food advertisement plays a huge role in making people eat in an unhealthy manner.
Food marketing has also been determined to be one of the causes of obesity among consumers, especially kids. Fast food companies have determined that adolescents and children form their largest customer base (Harris et al, 212). In America alone, children and adolescents spend more than two hundred billion dollars per year on food products (Harris et al, 212). This has resulted in fast food companies intensifying ads that target this age group. There are a lot of documented food advertisements that run on American televisions almost every day. An average child views more than 15 food advertisements daily (Harris et al, 212). Although a huge amount of food advertising money is spent on televisions, the food companies also target other areas such as the internet and schools to advertise their food to adolescents and children (Harris et al, 212). This makes the children have a determined mind when they choose the food they want to consume. In most cases, the food that is constantly advertised to the kids and adolescents is of low nutritional value, and because advisements make them have a predetermined mind, they end up consuming unhealthy foodstuff.
Some unhealthy foods are also strategically placed during the advertisement process. Food companies use creative methods to entice the consumers, for example, the foodstuffs are placed in a movie’s entertainment context; they are associated with famous artists and renowned people in the society (Harris et al, 213). Food companies also sponsor popular sports intending to entice the supporters of certain teams (Harris et al, 213), certain staunch fans believe that anything associated with their favorite team is good, and they cannot double guess when they want to buy them. This has given many food companies to sell low-nutritional value food to sports fanatics, which contributes to their unhealthy eating. More than 80% of food adverts seen on television are for food products that are high in sugar, sodium, and fat, and because they are glorified in the adverts as some of the best food, consumers are swayed into buying them. This has resulted in high obesity levels; confirming that food advertising plays a huge role in people’s unhealthy eating.
A study that was conducted in 23 countries by Consumers international indicated that a huge percentage of advertised food were confectionary, fast foods, sweetened cereals, soft drinks, and savory snacks (Harris et al, 213). This study was conducted in central Europe, Asia, and Western Europe. Studies indicate that these types of food are high in calorie levels and they are generally low in nutritional value (Harris et al, 213) and because people are constantly exposed to such advertisements, their food choices become skewed toward this type of food resulting in them consuming unhealthy foodstuffs.
Furthermore, snacks advertisement during non-meal times appears more than 58% on television per day. Only 11% of ads are set in a dining room and kitchen context (Harris et al, 213). This makes the consumers have the notion that it is cool and fun to eat a lot of snacks. Fast food ads are also mostly based on taste and no nutritional value. This makes the consumers think that it is great to eat high-calorie and good-tasting food and do this almost every time that they feel like it (Harris et al, 213). This contributes to high unhealthy-eating cases all over the world.
According to the article written by Donna Woolfolk Cross, it says that propaganda pervades the life of people (Cross, 1). Companies use propaganda as a means to persuade their consumers. Cross says that propaganda determines the brand of toothpaste someone will use, or the movie they will watch, this case is also similar to the food an individual will consume. Food advertising also uses propaganda to persuade consumers, most food companies lie about the nutritional value of their food, and some tell people that their products have certain nutrients while in real sense they lack them.
Cross says that name-calling and glittering generalities are forms of propaganda (Cross, 2). This is exactly what food advertisers do. They glorify their products while they tarnish the name of their competitors’ products. Some food advertisers tend to set up a faulty cause and effect (Cross, 5). In the case of the woman who was buying a carton of fat-free products in DeNoon’s article. The company lied about solving one nutritional problem but replaced it with an equally unhealthy product. Cross says that propagandists can influence people’s thinking, distract their attention, appeal to their emotions, and mislead them in logic that may seem good, but in a real sense it is detrimental (Cross, 7). This is the same case for food advertisers; they tend to use propaganda to mislead consumers to make unhealthy decisions. Just like Cross says, testimonials are a major form of propaganda that food advertisers use to market their products (Cross, 8). They use the backing of famous and renowned individuals to sway the thinking of the consumers. Testimonials are also widely used in TV advertisements (Cross, 8).
Food marketing is also heavily directed toward young children. “The average kid sees 15 food commercials a day, and all it takes is one commercial to make a young person desire a particular food,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, MS in Sustainable Food Systems. Food marketers are sending the wrong message. For example, each day young men are assaulted by food advertising urging them to ‘eat like a man” and that it is a great idea to indulge in a “fourth meal” (Palmer).
There is enough evidence that food of low nutritional value is highly advertised in low-income areas (Zimmerman & Shimoga, 2). The same type of food is also advertised in minority areas. These studies explain why there are huge differences in eating behaviors between different classes of people. The people in low-income areas are enticed by low-priced food, and because they have less disposable income, their choice of food is swayed (Zimmerman & Shimoga, 2). Research has also indicated the majority of the foods advertised in low-income areas are obesigenic, this results in disparities in healthy eating among the people living in such areas. This confirms that indeed advertising influences the food choice made by consumers, to the extent of the buying and consuming unhealthy foodstuffs.
Food companies are in business to make and grow a profit quarter after quarter. According to Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, health is not a priority for food companies. Nestle explains that “there is no nationally advertised food product that has a budget of less than $10 million a year, and that’s way on the low end” (Nestle 10). Large companies like Mcdonald’s and PepsiCo are known to invest 1 billion dollars a year in advertisements. To boost sales even further, competitive companies will even put their products in school vending machines and then integrate their products into various media channels as means to get people thinking about their products after watching. Often, the marketing techniques can be so subtle that most people will not notice it as marketing. Nestle further explains how supermarkets also do not consider health as a priority. Like the food companies, supermarkets are also in business to make a profit. Product placement inside supermarkets is not just guesswork. According to Nestle, “research shows that [companies] want products at eye level and the ends of aisles and at the cash register” to find the optimum position for driving sales. And companies pay to get the supermarkets to feature their products prominently (Nestle 10).
Lawrence Oglethorpe Gostin is an American law professor who specializes in public health law. In his article “Why Healthy Behavior Is the Hard Choice”, we learn about why healthy eating is difficult there is a framework society can work to adapt to make healthier choices. Gostin explains how food companies are aggressively marketing very addictive foods with saturated fat, salt, sugar, and carbohydrates. Also, many companies advertising sugar-filled foods are targeting children with clever advertising and deceptive ads. For example, fast food restaurants typically give away toys in children’s meals as a marketing strategy. It seems today as though everywhere you turn there are food advertisements ready to tempt people with unhealthy choices. Although eating well is hard to do, Gostin tells us that there are ways society can help promote health and nutrition. He tells us that some cities in America have begun to charge a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks to reduce consumers’ fat consumption. Gostin suggests that instead of adding the soda-tax revenue dollars to the cities’ general budget, “earmark food tax revenues to subsidize fruits, vegetables, and legumes, or for nutrition education campaign” (Gostin 243).
Food advertising has been identified as a major factor that contributes to the consumption of low nutritional value foods, its influences on consumers’ nutritional knowledge, purchasing behaviors, and consumption patterns. I hope that consumers begin to buy with new eyes. I believe consumers should make a list the next time they visit their local supermarket and buy only what was intended. It is important to take a pause and look out for the deals placed at the doorway. Rome was not built in a day, but every day there is an opportunity to make wiser choices to become healthier.