The World Health Organisation (WHO) has named childhood obesity as one of the 21st century’s most serious health problems. (Parliament of Australia, 2011). WHO found over 340 million children aged from ages 5-19 were overweight in 2016, with around 12% of them being under the age of 5 years. (WHO, 2018). Through research, it has been found that fast food advertisements contribute to childhood obesity due to the abundance and overexposure of high fat and sugar food through media advertisements to children. Promoting food on television remains as the main marketing place for companies. (Perroni, E., 2011). Children are vulnerable consumers (Martin, J., 2015). In addition, because of children watching television regularly, and the large number food advertisements that they may see, can have an effect on their diet and choices in food. (Cezar, A., 2008). Given that, around 40% of Australian school-aged children eat unhealthy food; with companies spending millions of dollars to create good demands for their products is a marketing success but a public health failure. (Martin, J., 2015).
It was only until the television became an object in many homes that children began to become targeted by food advertisers. Before the television is was quite uncommon for them to be targeted. Today, as more people are paying for a television subscription, there have been more opportunities on children’s channels, for example, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network, for advertisers to market their food. (Parliament of Australia, 2011). It was discovered by an investigation done by the Kaiser Family Foundation that there are 58% of children under 2 years old who on a normal day watch television; for children of the ages 4-6 the number is even higher with 70% of children watching television on an average day. (Cezar, A., 2008). According to a 2007 study by this foundation, it was discovered that advertising food takes up half of all advertisement time on children’s television; none of this time for food is to promote healthy products such as fruit and vegetables. (Parliament of Australia, 2011). Children are vulnerable consumers and are likely to have a limited understanding of the intentions and aims of the commercial. Research found that advertisements are only seen as entertainment for children up to four years, and then advertisements only start to be seen as providing information for children aged six to seven years. Furthermore, children cannot tell the difference between the information of the commercial and how the advertiser is trying to persuade from seven to eight years and then from the ages ten to twelve years, they are able to understand the intentions and aims of the advertisement they are seeing, but still not able to explain the sales techniques. (Parliament of Australia, 2011). As a result, of children being a target of advertisements persisting of entertaining figures, these particular advertisers most likely food companies are able to give them a positive idea of the brand, which can continue to stay with them through to their adult life. (Martin, J., 2015).
Sweets, snacks and fast food are the bases of advertising. An increasing number of overseas findings agrees upon this. (Parliament of Australia, 2011). Food manufacturer’s influences seem to go further than the advertisement itself. It depends on huge quantities and specific locations within a number of platforms, such as websites, apps, games, billboards at bus stops and promotions in supermarkets. This guarantees that junk food advertising is wallpaper into children’s lives. (Martin, J., 2015). Unhealthy food advertising was found to be a stimulus into what children want to eat and what they do eat. This also creates pester power and challenges the efforts put in by parents, schools and communities to encourage healthy habits. (Martin, J., 2015) Pester power was found to be given into by parents in Australia 26% of the time, discovered by Ehrenberg’s Bass Institute for Marketing Sciences at the University of South Australia. In comparison, an up to date study from the US found that pester power has a 97% success rate, while overseas in Austria it’s only 52%. (University of South Australia, 2014). It was concluded by a British Heart Foundation and Children’s Food Campaign that children targeted by advertisements of unhealthy products, has an impact on an unhealthy diet, which can continue into their adult life. (Parliament of Australia, 2011).
Children being overweight and obese causes effects on their health and wellbeing. Overweight and obese children generally tend to go into adulthood being overweight and obese and therefore they are inclined to health complications. These complications place significant overloads in national health systems and economies. (Parliament of Australia, 2011). Obesity in children has instant, immediate and short-term adverse health problems. (Australian Government, Department of Health, 2009). These health problems can have a serious effect on children’s lives as they grow into adults. Some examples of these health complications that may come about as a result of obesity and being overweight is, gastrointestinal disorders, they can have body dissatisfaction (possibly leading to eating disorders), type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high levels of C-reactive protein, (which could lead to coronary heart disease) and more. (Australian Government, Department of Health, 2009). With the large number of health defects, advertisements need to have a reduced time being shown on children’s television, especially if they can continue with them into adulthood.
The health effects on children can have serious consequences, but people have been assisting to prevent these health defects. Preventing obesity in children has risen quite significantly for children aged 5-19. In 2016, the prevention success was 18%, which is a large rise from only 4% in 1975. This rise has occurred between girls and boys, 18% of girls compared to 19% of boys were overweight in 2016, which is not too high of a percentage. (WHO, 2018). One course of action, to create a healthier society with appropriate and healthy weight levels, includes introducing and upholding encouragement of healthy eating. However, with pre-packaged foods high in fat, salt and sugar, having an increased display, progressively available all over the world, generally publicized in large or a number of serving sizes, has created a challenge to eating healthily. The attack of marketing and advertising that secretly and unpleasantly influence people’s intakes and food preferences, has been argued as a challenge with preventing obesity. This has been a considerable advancement, therefore, because of this thinking; it has urged governments to make limits on the amount of marketing of junk food, particularly to children. (Parliament of Australia, 2011).
While there has been an increase in healthy and various different foods being advertised, there still has not been a reduction in the advertisement of unhealthy food. (Perroni, E., 2017). There is still time for the government to start putting limitations on the amount of time fast food advertisements are allowed to be shown on the TV. Children are open to these advertisements and do not have a lot of understanding of the intentions the advertiser is trying to put across. These advertisements seen as entertainment can have effects on their food choices, possibly leading to obesity, which can have serious health problems in the future. This is the reason why it is thought that fast food advertisements contribute to childhood obesity due to the abundance and overexposure of high fat and sugar food through media advertisements to children.