Fast Food Ads

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The Ethics of Food Advertising
Joseph Okolowski

Introduction Fast food advertising has become a major concern in the arena of food product advertising. Advertising to children, in particular, has become a heated topic as it is suggested that there is a lack of advertiser responsibility. Corporations such as McDonald’s serve millions of meals each day, with much of their menu not being part of a healthy lifestyle. Large advertising campaigns have presented information to the public that has been twisted to create a false image of seemingly healthy products. Other restaurants such as Taco Bell have created campaigns to promote eating more food, and providing the unhealthy food for less money. We discover that much of these restaurants’ healthy menu selections are not all fit for a healthy lifestyle, and unless single nutritious items are eaten, or small portions are eaten, that fast food can be harmful to your health. Advertising to children has been done since the early 1980’s, and children are considered their own target market in the marketing spectrum. Advertisers have only been concerned with sales in the past and consumer health is not a major concern for them, other than as a marketing campaign slogan. Nations such as the United Kingdom (UK) have addressed some of these issues, and have even

gone as far as banning junk food commercials during specific time slots. These efforts have been due, in part, to a large increase in obesity of the population. Healthy Fast Food Alternatives In the year 2003, McDonald’s began a nationwide advertising campaign in the United States to promote healthy eating and living. Components of this campaign were removing the “super size” option, allowing the option of replacing fries and a soda with milk and apple dippers in a “Happy Meal,” introducing “healthy” salads with chicken, and forming new happy meals for health conscious adults which included a pedometer, salad, a bottle of water, and a pamphlet on walking and staying fit (Tanner, 2004). In the past two years, they have introduced new fruit, yogurt, and other low fat options into their menu. At first glance, it seems that McDonald’s is beginning to promote healthy alternatives to their calorie, fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol rich food. However, on closer examination, these recent options may not sound as healthy as they have been promoted to be, and for consumers, often take a back-seat to the burgers and fries. It is also interesting to see how these new options are presented to the waiting consumer. Out of all the products introduced in the past few years, the only ones that are immediately noticeable are the salads. There was no longer a value meal for the salads. Drink and salad must be purchased separately. To some it may not seem important, however, the discount for a value meal cannot be achieved by buying a salad as a meal. The lack of a meal discount can be important, given that a salad alone is priced comparably to entire Big Mac meal.

Consumers with low incomes may be affected most by this; they may not be able to afford the healthy option. On April 25, 2006, McDonald’s did launch a campaign for their “Adult Happy Meals.” They were once again offered for a short time only, until May 22, 2006. The new meals offered one of four DVD’s in addition to a salad and drink (McDonald’s partners with fitness company, 2006). On viewing the rest of the menu, it is difficult to find the healthy alternatives in relation to their other products. Most are only listed with no visual aid, and as in the case of the salads, are sold at a seemingly high price for fast food. Even the dollar menu only contains two healthy options. It appears, when looking at the menu today, that providing healthy alternatives is no longer a priority to the McDonald’s corporation. Questionable Advertising Even though these salads and other options were widely publicized as being a healthy alternative to their original menu items, not all were that...
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