Exploiting the Vulnerable. The fast food industry sees children as a future as well as current market and hence brand loyalty at a young age helps in the quest of continued sales later. $15-17 billion is spent by companies advertising to children in the US. Over $4 billion was spent in 2009 by the fast food industry alone. Children are naïve about advertising and are easily controlled and exploited by the marketers to want and demand their products. A research done by the American psychology association showed that children under the age of 8 are unable to critically comprehend televised advertising messages and are prone to accept advertisers messages as truthful and accurate. With children watching television 15,000 to 18,000 hours in a year, the food companies exploit this inability of the children and make unhealthy food seems fun, exciting and delicious. On the other hand, advertisers and companies believe that children’s eating habits are parents’ responsibilities and that advertising only influences brand choices.
Almost all teens in the U.S reminiscence about the times they went to McDonald’s or Burger King with their parents. We remember being excited for the toys, the colorful bag and the food which we only got once in a while. The trip to the fast food stores was made even more enjoyable with the sensation of belonging and of being our own unique group of kids. What we did not become conscious about was that it was all planned out by the fast food companies to do just that. They spent billions of dollars researching and advertising to make us feel that was every time we visited a fast food store. It is not simply advertisement that they use but other strategies like Happy Meals, play places, children’s clubs and educational materials etc. Marketing and advertising by the fast food industry have specific practices and ideas for persuading children to purchase their products. The images that the fast food industry displays of itself in advertisements to children are fun and happiness .It is hoped that these images carry on into adulthood and create life-long, loyal consumers. The images that the fast food industry presents of itself have an effect on children by creating emotional associations and attachments. Children’s advertising primarily uses emotional appeal to convince children to purchase a product from a particular company.
As long as children’s programming has existed, there has been advertising to children. Television was the major media that created the child consumer. The 1950s was the decade when children became targets for advertisements. Television offered a new way to sell products, which had not been available before and, with it, a new way to sell products market products to children. In a study, it was reported that during the early 1950s, the advertisements during children’s shows were directed towards the entire family and not solely to children.
The commercialization of children’s television if one of several concerns raised by child health professions regarding the impact of television on children’s wellbeing. Foods dominate children's advertising, and a recent report indicates that the diet advertised to children contrasts strongly with the nationally recommended diet. The overwhelming majority of food advertising aimed at children is for foods and beverages high in sugars, fat and/or salt. Food advertising has long been blamed for the association between gaining weight and television viewing. Free gifts are a particularly effective way of attracting child customers. Free toys can double or triple the sales of McDonald's meals to children. One of the most successful was the Teenie Beanie Baby which was thought to have sold 100 million Happy Meals in ten days compared with normal sales of ten million pre week. Fast food and cereal marketers often take advantage of children's