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Children are born into this world, essentially, as blank slates, knowing nothing

more than how to cry and swallow fluids. Therefore, it is natural for children to be easily
impressed upon because it helps them to quickly learn how to survive in their
environment. Impressions come from their family, such as parents and siblings, and
their environment, such as television. Children are also naturally very emotional
because they have not yet learned how to control their emotions, therefore, they do not
always know when it is appropriate to be emotionally attached to something and when it
is not. In our current society, children often watch TV for long hours. During this time,
children are exposed to mass amounts of corporate marketing, including marketing for
unhealthy foods. Attractive advertisements, the structure of food corporations, and the
availability of healthy foods all add to the to effect of marketing on children. It is well
known that very few children are aware of the persuasive nature in these
advertisements, and even less are aware of the severe and life-long health issues that
may occur by eating these foods. Due to children being unaware of the deceitfulness of
the marketing and advertising techniques used by food corporations, growing numbers
of children are contracting severe health problems. To resolve this issue, new laws need
to come into effect. Laws that will limit advertisements to children, laws that will help to
educate them on the deceptive nature of marketing, and educate them on the
importance of eating well and staying physically active.
In Amy Guptill's book "Food and Society: Principles and Paradoxes," she brings
to life the goal of marketing directed at children by food corporations when she claims
that their aim is "to turn children into loyal consumers of their products by embedding
company brands into children's everyday emotional lives during powerful periods of
socialization" (98). This is called commercialization of childhood. By doing this, they are
manipulating children into wanting their products by using their natural ability to learn
quickly and their, sometimes misplaced, emotional attachment against them.
Food advertisements marketed toward children are made to be fun. They portray
an idealistic character for children to relate to, with whom corporations intend for
children to feel a type of emotional bond, becoming important, well known to the viewer,
and to leave an impression. These characters includes, Pillsbury Dough Boy,
Flintstones, Spiderman, Batman and many more. The impression that left by these
characters is made clear in Professor Brownell's lecture, "Lecture 16 - Everyone but Me:
The Pervasive Reach and Powerful Influence of Food Marketing on Food Choices," in
which they play a game. In the game, he shows pictures of characters often seen on
food labels, and the students guess them all correctly. However, when the students saw
a picture of a major world leader, they hesitated because none of them knew who that
person was. This is the same case for children, however, it is exponentially worse
because children are unaware of the malintent of the advertisements. Eating food
associated with a fun character from TV is an area of consumer culture in our society.
Corporations encourage this consumer culture because they're able to use it to their
advantage when micro-marketing, marketing to select groups of people. Guptill
reaffirms this when she insists that "consumers emphasize the symbolism and
emotional content of brands, paying relatively little attention to the objective qualities of
objects or the long-term impact of their consumption choices on themselves and others"
(87). This consumer culture happens often in grocery stores.
In our society, we get much of the food we consume at local grocery stores. As

with any corporation, a grocery store's goal is to make a profit. Therefore, they work in
cooperation with the food manufacturers to increase their profits, regardless of any
negative health effects the food they provide may have on children. A portion of this
profit is from children wanting to buy foods that have pictures of their favorite characters
on the box, which is called brand licensing. Children love to have snacks. Therefore,
after walking past shelves at the front of the store that are laden with many different
fatty crackers, chips and dips, and a table filled with pre-made cookies in bags, children
are drawn to the snacks aisle. In this aisle there will be processed snack foods, sugary
cereals, and fatty, salty prepackaged meals, many of them reflecting characters they
have seen on TV. With the effect this marketing has on children, one could go so far as
to call these idealistic characters "food icons" (Guptill 212). Furthermore, the fruits and
vegetables section may be on the opposite side of the store, not at all encouraging
children to snack on healthy foods, encouraging them to fall for their marketing trap.
In some areas, however, children have no choice but to fall for the marketing
traps the corporations put out for them. These areas are called "food deserts" (Guptill
146). They have been termed this because they don't have any fully stocked grocery
stores. Food deserts are generally low income areas and/or the nearest grocery store is
too far away. In these areas, fast-food restaurants and convenience stores, filled with
processed packaged foods, reign. This is the only food option for children, which forces
them to fall into deceptive micro-marketing traps because is no other food, no fresh
produce, is available to them.
Micro-marketing became notable in the 1980's when, in 1983 alone, according to
Susan Linn in her article "The commercialization of Childhood and children's WellBeing: What is the Role of Healthcare Providers?" corporations spent approximately
US$100 million on advertisements directed at children (195), and according to
Samantha Graff in her article, "Government can Regulate Food Advertising to Children
because Cognitive Research shows that it is Inherently Misleading," the estimate
increased to approximately US$2 billion for food marketing alone to children by 2006
(392). Since then, health issues have increased in children. HBO claims in its film
Weight of the Nation that obesity rates have increased. Plaque, heart disease, has
began to build up in the arteries of children's hearts. Type 2 diabetes, formerly called
"adult onset diabetes," has become rampant among children. To make this worse,
according to Samantha Graff, the amount of time that children spend in front of a TV is,
on average, 6 hours per day for children 8 to 10 years old, during which they are
exposed to approximately 15 food advertisements per day (393), marketing sugary,
fatty, and salty foods. Spending this much time sitting, causes children to not get the
daily exercise they need to be healthy so they are contracting serious health issues,
made worse because they are often consuming the unhealthy foods that had been
advertised to them while sitting.
In HBO's film, Weight of the Nation, they filmed the events and results of a
longitudinal study in Bogalusa, Louisiana, a state whose obesity rate is very high and
notorious for eating unhealthy foods, called the Bogalusa Heart Study. A longitudinal
study is a research method in which data is gathered from the same subjects repeatedly
over a period of time. In the case of the study in Bogalusa, the study extends over
decades. In Bogalusa, they have found that over 50% of the children are overweight or
obese. This fact supports a claim made in the film stating that 1 in 3 children born in the

year 2000 in the United State are at risk of becoming overweight or obese. They also
claim that if the child is African American or Latino, the risk heightens to 1 in 2.
Furthermore, Bogalusa Heart Study was the first study to conduct the autopsies on the
hearts of children and found that children also can have plaque buildup in their arteries
(HBO). No matter the actual cause of those childrens deaths, because the beginnings
of heart disease was observed in the autopsy, these children would have had health
issues later in life because they fell subject to the deceitfulness of marketing.
Children most often don't notice the deception in marketing. They do not realize
the TV advertisements and the brand licensing is done to manipulate them, made just to
catch their appeal. They unknowingly fall into the trap. Companies don't care that
children are unaware of what they're eating. They understand very well how the amount
of sugar, fat, and salt in their products are likely to make children become overweight,
have heart issues, and contract diabetes. But children's health is not their concern.
Their concern is making a profit, therefore, showing children a fun character is more
important than how they are misleading children from the truth about their product.
However, unless children are taught they are being deceived, they do not know there is
a high likeliness they may suffer from these terrible diseases from eating the foods that
are being marketed to them. Diseases that may affect them for rest of their lives.
Diseases that will negatively impact their ability to live a quality life. However, this can
be avoided.
HBO suggests in the film "Weight of the Nation," that education is the best
solution to combat the early onset of these diseases. It is also noted that some schools
have attempted to put more their resources into physical education classes. These are
excellent ideas and should be continued. However, throughout the film, the various
politicians whom speak, continue to talk about there needing to be a change in policy.
While this is definitely correct, a further point needs to be emphasized because none of
them, at any time, say anything about a specific major policy change. They only speak
of organizations for food and marketing education by small groups. On one hand, while
these are worthy endeavors, on the other hand, these efforts are not doing enough by
themselves to accomplish the overall goal of helping all children throughout the United
States to be healthier as a whole. The Affordable Healthcare Act is an example of how a
major change in policy can make a difference. The Affordable Healthcare Act took
several years to become fully effective, but, with that change, all Americans now have
health care. The same type of widespread change would be true with alternative
national policy requirements on schools.
With the Affordable Healthcare Act now being in effect, the American government
has already shown it has the ability to do major change in national policy. This means
they are able to create a new policy that would require all K-12 schools in the United
States to have nutrition classes taught by licensed nutritionists twice per week that are
informative and teach children about marketing, how to grow a garden, healthy foods,
and how to make delicious meals with healthy foods. However, these classes would be
best to not to include lessons on how to make desserts because eating healthy is the
goal. Food education is key to helping lower the number of children who suffer from
obesity, diabetes, and beginnings of heart disease because with the knowledge of what
corporations are attempting to do to them, they will be able to recognize misleading
marketing when it's presented to them. Moreover, children will then have the skills to

make food for themselves, instead of relying on packaged foods manufactured by

corporations for sustenance.
Furthermore, children would benefit from a new government policy that would
require daily physical education classes, as well. In Japan, obesity rates are low, one
reason being the physical education requirements for school age children are very
rigorous compared to requirements in the United States. All children in good health are
physically able to follow the same rigorous guidelines for physical education as the ones
that are followed in Japan. Therefore, American children would greatly benefit by a new
national policy that would introduce consistent and frequent nutrition/cooking classes
and rigorous physical education classes modeled after the guidelines followed in Japan.
With this change in national policy, children will be getting the daily exercise they need
and, with being in the habit of being active, children will be less likely to watch TV for
large portions of the day. They will be more likely to want to be outside and be physically
Finally, great jumps need to be made in the Supreme Court to limit advertising to
children. According to Samantha Graff, in 2011, corporations fought against federal
efforts to make new laws governing children's food advertising. The corporations tried to
hide behind the First Amendment, insisting that the Supreme Court could not pass any
laws restricting their marketing techniques. However, the Supreme Court "interpretation
the First Amendment to permit government restrictions on advertising that is actually or
inherently misleading" (Graff 393). With this new decision, food advertisements directed
at children would be regulated. This was step in the right direction, however, deceitful
marketing continues to affect children's lives. Marketing to children in other countries is
more restricted than it is in the United States, and the corporations and children there
are continue to do survive and live happy lives. For example, according to Susan Linn,
"Finland bands advertisements that are delivered by children or by familiar cartoon
characters" (196). Additional strict regulations on children's food advertisements need to
be made and enforced by the United States Supreme Court to benefit the nation's
children, which will help to encourage them to eat better and be more physically active.
As of today, marketing aimed at deceiving children into wanting a corporation's
products is still prevalent. Early onset of serious diseases and children not getting the
exercise they need is also still prevalent. But this can be changed. Our children can
have long, healthy lives. Their best chance is to be educated about the deceptive
marketing that is targeted at them and getting into the habit of exercising regularly. The
best way to ensure this is to change national policy. Our children have all the potential in
the world inside them. Starting at a very young age, the time at which children are most
impressionable, they need to be taught what is right and what is wrong; the difference
between what is will create a happy life for themselves, and how listening to the
corporations who deceive them will create life-long problems for themselves.

Works Cited

Guptill, Amy, Denise Copelton, and Betsy Lucal. Food and Society: Principles and
Paradoxes. Malden: Polity Press, 2013. Print.
Peer-Reviewed Article:
Graff, Samantha, Dale Kunkel, and Seth E. Mermin. "Government can Regulate Food
Advertising to Children because Cognitive Research shows that it is Inherently
Misleading." Health affairs 31.2 (2012): 392-8. ProQuest. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.
Peer-Reviewed Article:
Linn, Susan. The Commercialization of Childhood and Childrens Well-Being: What Is
Role of Health Care Providers? Paediatrics & Child Health 15.4 (2010): 195
The Weight of the Nation. Hoffman, John, Chaykin, Dan, Teale, Sarah, HBO
Films, Institute of Medicine, Center for Disease Control, Kaiser Permanente, and
Warner Home Video. Warner Home Video, 2012. Film.
Video clip:
Brownell. "Lecture 16 - Everyone but Me: The Pervasive Reach and Powerful Influence
Food Marketing on Food Choices." Open Yale Courses. Yale University. Web. 16
March 2015.