Friday debate: Junk Food & TV Ads

For this weeks Friday debate post I am looking at how big a role TV adverts play in making kids fat

Junk food forever! Photo: Liton Ali

Junk food forever! Photo: Liton Ali

Let’s be honest, no matter how bad we know it is for us we all like a bit of junk food now and then. Looking around the playgrounds and streets of Britain today and you’d be forgiven for thinking ‘now and then’ was code for lunch and dinner, + brunch, linner (where lunch meets dinner) and snacks in between. There isn’t anything ‘wrong’ with having some junk food sometimes, who wants to sit down to watch a movie with a bag of carrots when popcorn is on offer? But is too much of it being shoved down our throats (both literally and metaphorically) by us and the black hearted world of advertising. I say that tongue in cheek as I work in marketing too. So on an into the debate.

According to a report on the BBC health section today children are being bombarded and mesmerised by a cacophony of brightly coloured and enticing adverts for junk food, fast food restaurants and sweets. The short study showed 1 in 10 adverts during family-favourite shows such as Hollyoaks (why oh why are people still watching this) X Factor (really, it’s still going?) and the Simpsons (okay that one I love). The study showed that half of all food related adverts shown were for ‘junk food’ – cricky. What chance do you stand as a parent when half the food adverts you see are for crap?

junk food - bin it

junk food – bin it Photo: Cattis B Carla

Reading on through the plethora of news stories which have covered this it looks like a genuine problem, to quote the BBC article “The campaign group Action on Junk Food Marketing, whose members include the Children’s Food Campaign and the British Heart Foundation, said children’s TV viewing peaks around 20:00 but laws to protect children from targeted advertising only cover children’s programmes, which tend to be broadcast earlier in the day”.

So should we be regulating food and specifically ‘junk food’ advertising in general, not just during children’s programming? My opinion is no. The study showed that junk food adverts were 10-11%of the total adverts, not too high I think. What would be a better option in my opinion would be to have a lot more education and information out there about healthy eating. Having some cheesecake at the weekend is fine, even good. Having cheesecake everyday is very bad.

Aside from this TV is a declining medium and today young people and consuming more and more of their media through the web, a wild west of advertising and peer pressure which is pretty much impossible to regulate or control in any meaningful way.

So what’s the answer? Responsibility for what our children eat isn’t down to advertisers, who lets face it want to promote and sell their product, but to parents who are buying the junk food. I know kids have pocket money and can buy some themselves but if we (as adults and parent’s especially) set a good example of eating chocolate, pizza and cola as a treat within a balanced diet alongside a good bit of exercise then they might just get the right idea. With so many adults overweight in the UK it is bound to have a knock on effect, after all kids emulate what they see in their parents and wider society and if they see people eating chips at every meal can we blame them or the chip makers for children wanting more chips?

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