Misleading Marketing Schemes in Australia and Their Impact

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Marketing is the culprit of generating obesity. Marketing is detrimental to children’s health. Marketing is the culprit. Our country has been slammed with misleading marketing schemes and it is unacceptable. Marketers are using popular methods to wrongly entice young children to buy their products. An issue which should not be ignored. Childhood obesity has been labelled one of the most serious public health issues of the 21st century. Healthy eating habits need to be encouraged, so, why aren’t they? It seems the increasing availability of junk foods globally has made eating healthily a challenge. This challenge has been compounded by marketing schemes that adversely influence young children’s food preferences and consumption patterns. We must act now. We must make provisions within our laws to ensure limitations on the advertising of junk foods, particularly to children. Opponents argue that junk food can be part of a balanced diet and that it should be the responsibility of individuals, including children, to make decisions about what they consume. How is it fair for young people to be reliable, responsible, and responsive for these decisions? We, Australians, should not accept this false misconception of marketing plaguing our children’s health.

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Analysis of Three Main Arguments

Australia needs to drastically overhaul its current misconception of marketing schemes which children are exposed to. Misleading marketing is boiling up. The slam of marketing is having a detrimental impact on the health of our children. Marketing is vital for companies to sell their products, but it is the healthy and nutritious food that must be advertised to young people. Health is the subtle thief of youth. In Australia, children under 18 have an average of $32 to spend on food each week, and they influence more than 70% of their parents' fast food purchases. Almost three out of every four foods advertised to children falls into the unhealthy categories that contribute to the obesity epidemic (American Psychological Association). Yet we allowed, accepted and approved this societal norm, and decided it is reasonable to allow children of today to be unaware, unhappy and unhealthy in our homes. Decided that this is not our issue, when in reality we are the sole causes of obesity today. We all know that various marketing techniques are used to entice children including, bright colours, fun graphics, giveaways, and collectibles. Food ads on television make-up 50 percent of all the ad time on children’s shows (American Psychological Association). These ads are almost completely dominated by unhealthy food products and children are rarely exposed to advertising for healthier foods. This marketing scheme is outrageous and disgusting, typical of manufacturers. They are nothing but salesmen. We all know the ideals of a McDonalds Happy Meal, cheap, accessible and packed alongside a toy on par with the latest trend. A child who is highly vulnerable to advertising would prefer this meal due to the ideals it presents. The word itself says happy, and therefore entices children to believe this meal will make them happy. Furthermore, the yellow colour of the McDonalds brand represents sun, joy and fun and therefore children are more likely to choose this meal over a nutritious salad. Red and Yellow are the chief food colours for evoking the taste buds and stimulating the appetite. Both red and yellow are also effective at grabbing attention. The fast food industry has claimed this combination for good reason, because it is effective . McDonalds, KFC, Hungry Jacks, Coca-Cola and Dominos are just a few of the franchises that implement elements of red in their marketing for this reason. But do not let our country’s, courageous, children be misled. We must act now.

Children in our country are exposed to twice as much unhealthy food advertising, as healthy food advertising. Childhood obesity is one of the greatest epidemics Australia is currently facing. This epidemic has struck our country like a flash of lightning. Could this obesity epidemic be alleviated if marketing offered better incentives for food consumption? Children ultimately love to spend money, parents teach them how to do it, and given the opportunity, they will spend it in one of their favourite stores, on one of their favourite marketed foods. We must act now. Childhood obesity has the potential to be conquered with help from Australians parents. A study by Professor Sharon Beder concluded that children can have a significant influence on their parent’s nutritional decisions. Consequently, the advertising industry spends $12 billion per year on ads targeted to children. Barbara A. Martino an advertising executive stated that “we’re relying on the kid to pester the mom to buy the product, rather than going straight to the mom”. This is not okay. Product preferences affect children's product purchase requests and these requests influence parents' purchasing decisions. Is a cheap McDonalds meal worth the expense of your children’s health? Of equal importance, psychological research has recently raised ethical concerns of such advertising exposed to children, as children under eight years of age lack the cognitive capacity to understand the persuasive intent of advertising. You allow this. We need to be able to say, ‘yeah there is some unhealthy food advertising, but majority of it is healthy because that’s the type of society we are.’ It is crucial that children are not exposed to such great amounts of unhealthy food advertising.

Limiting exposure of children to unhealthy food marketing will decrease the rates of obesity. Advertisements are a whirlwind of fun but can have drastic effects on our children’s health. In Australia, in 2007–08, approximately eight per cent of children were estimated to be obese and 17 per cent overweight, and these numbers continue to sky rocket. It just might kill our planet. A range of factors can contribute to obesity, health and consumer advocates have raised concerns about the effect of unhealthy food advertising on children’s diets. Parents must call for stronger, statutory and safe restrictions on promotions for unhealthy products. The World Health Organisation has identified that limiting exposure of children to unhealthy food marketing is a cost effective, population-wide intervention to reduce diet-related risk factors for non-communicable disease, including obesity. A McDonalds Happy Meal is an irrefutable example of the factors that influence children’s food preferences. Happy Meals are best-known for the inclusion of toys in their boxes. Now I may be wrong but what entices a child more than a toy? Say McDonalds took the same marketing scheme and implemented it as a salad meal, a child would just as likely choose it as their meal. This model could significantly improve our children’s health. The bottom line is when people are dying, our human instinctive is fight or flight, we either help and potentially prevent it or we let it happen. Our society is currently choosing the ‘flight’ response, we know there is a problem, we need to save our children, but we take flight and hope that someone else will deal with the consequences. This is wrong. Obesity is a deepening crisis in our country, and we remain divided on the issue of misleading marketing.


It is imperative that our country removes misleading marketing. As a child, I too fell a slave to marketing schemes, but I now know that it is a lie, it its aimed and produced to deliberately entice us and it is wrong. Obesity is the scourge of the west. As a collective, we must change the way we allow our children to purchase food and no longer accept the false misconception of marketing aimed at our children. Healthy eating habits are established in childhood and are integral to good health. Never, never, never is a person more equipped to change their ways than at the age of a child. Stop this now before it becomes a habit. By limiting the exposure of unhealthy food marketing to children, the rates of obesity will decrease. We have let this go on for too long. It is time for change. We must teach our children to stay in control, inspect and ignore marketing schemes. There is no life without food, however, there is a healthier life for children if we stand together and change the way society markets to young children.  

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