"Hold the Advertising" Next Special Order for Fast Food Brands?

Childhood obesity continues to be a concern in America. The expansion of the waistline among kids is often linked to unhealthy offerings of fast food restaurants and their marketing efforts to attract children. Now, a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health lends support to calls for prohibiting fast food ads aimed at children under age 12. Findings from the study suggest that obesity rates in children ages 3-11 could be reduced by 18% if children were not exposed to fast food ads.

The study's findings and the call for eliminating fast food advertising targeting children revives the argument about who is responsible for shaping kids' choices: parents or the government. The restaurant industry's assertion that parental oversight is key in this situation is logical, but it also assumes that parents are concerned enough to take a proactive role in educating their children about making healthy food choices. That assumption may be too much of a stretch as we look around and see many adults have their own issues with managing their weight, so perhaps they cannot be counted on to guide the choices of impressionable children.

Much is at stake for both sides of this issue. Fast food restaurants that appeal to children are usually bringing in the entire family to dine, not just the kids. Also, forming brand relationships at a young age can set the stage for creating customers with higher lifetime value (LTV) if brand loyalty develops. So, eliminating advertising to children hurts this long-term view of customer loyalty development.
The general public has much at stake, too. Unhealthy kids, like unhealthy adults, can increase demand for health care services that could be reduced simply making better choices.

A government ban on advertising fast food brands to kids seems like a last resort.If the industry does not step up its self-regulation efforts, it is likely that government will take care of it for them. Some public policy and advertising experts have predicted fast food will be the next tobacco in terms of sweeping government regulation. The more proactive the restaurant industry can be in promoting healthy choices, the less likely the prospect of a ban on marketing to kids.

Link: Ad Age - "NIH: Banning Fast Food Ads Will Make Kids Less Fat"

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