What If We Didn’t… advertise food to children?
Ba-da-ba-ba-bah, I’m lovin’ it.
Can you think back to the first time you heard this little ditty? The McDonald’s jingle debuted in 2003, crooned by newly solo artist Justin Timberlake. As McDonald’s longest running ad campaign, you may have first heard it as a kid but still remember it 15 years later. If so, the commercial did its job.
Featuring a catchy jingle with a popular artist is just one tactic food companies employ to turn consumers into lifelong customers. The food industry has spent billions of advertising dollars to intrigue these individuals, ideally while they’re young and impressionable.
The ethics of advertising anything to children has been long debated; a 1986 study looked at kids’ cognitive responses to advertising, finding younger kids were much more susceptible to advertising. Part of the problem with this marketing is that kids get hooked on food that isn’t great for them. Approximately 1 in 3 American children and teenagers is overweight or obese (mirroring the ratio of their adult parents), and research has shown junk food advertising contributes to the issue. Today, experts continue to study the practice of bombarding kids with food advertisements.