Tuesday, August 7, 2007

McDonald's and the No-Hold-Bars Marketing Smackdown of Preschoolers

A new study has revealed that children surveyed at a Head Start center in California preferred the taste of food wrapped in the McDonald's logo over the exact same food unwrapped. Some of the foods were common-place snacks like carrots and milk.

Researchers are balking at the overly successful effects of McDonald's strategic marketing toward children. Psychologists are lining-up against MickyD's while others choose to blame the parents.

So, whose job is it to monitor what children are seeing and consuming?

As parents, my husband and I have always taken it upon ourselves to try to filter and educate our kids about advertising. We are a very non-commercial family. We hardly ever watch commercial television, in fact, we do not even have cable. The few times I have seen advertisements geared toward the kids, I have taken time to explain to our children what the ad is trying to accomplish and how it is trying to change their minds about what they are selling.

Marketing towards children is ruthless. There is nothing a corporation will not do to instill those warm, associative feelings toward their brand early in children. (Even our own government knows how to play the game.)

I have to agree that parents must beware.

But, does that mean that advertisers can do whatever they want? What else can we learn from this study?

It seems to me that it is evident that children in poorer, low-income families are more likely to report this way. In fact, I wonder if the study knew ahead of time that they would be able to produce these results by surveying a Head Start center. (Head Start is a government provided preschool for low-income and welfare families). I think it is plausible to expect low-income families and immigrants to be naive and uneducated of the harmful affects of television.

A study released last month reports that children with more educated parents watch less television. I do not think that it is safe to assume that this survey would find similar results in children from a more diverse background.

Educated parents may begin a sigh of relief, thinking "My kids sure don't watch that much television and we never eat fast food", but not so fast. Even I, an admitted television nazi, am concerned by the broader ramifications of this study.

The health and eating habits of low-income families should be a concern to us all. These are the people who are being supplied Medicaid by our tax dollars and will potentially not have insurance in years ahead. Being a society that attempts to provide care for all citizens, we cannot forget that the exploitation of the disadvantaged is an exploitation of us all.

Just because we know better than to eat McDonald's poison, doesn't mean that we are not feeling the toxic affects inadvertently. The "If you don't like it, don't eat it" mentality only works for adults. I don't remember being able to go out and grocery shop for myself when I was 4-years-old. Do you?


Daisy said...

Hey there! I cross-posted your comments to my blog and linked you. I loved your commentary.

I have thought about this so many types, and thank you for articulating the issues so well.

Stu said...

Your post on marketing aimed at kids was just nominated for Hot Stuff Of The Week by our readers over at GNMParents. Congrats, and good luck in the voting!

Anonymous said...

"Being a society that attempts to provide care for all citizens, we cannot forget that the exploitation of the disadvantaged is an exploitation of us all."


Grandma Bettyanne said...

Well spoken, well articulated.

Do we have responsibility to our families and most close to us?? YES. Does this extend to the families and children of neighbors?? YES. Does this extend beyond our neighborhoods to the families and children of others?? YES.

I heard commentary about a famous film maker who produced immoral films. When asked if he allowed his children to see these films he produced, he declared: "No, no way." The next question was: "Then why don't you care whether other people's children watch them?"

Ang, if you keep this up, you might run for office :)

Kate said...

Hey, for $9.95 you can buy one of those McDonald's "play sets" at Toys 'R Us and just package homemade chicken nuggets (healthier anyway) and "faux fries" (baked, not fried) and avoid all of the screaming.

Not that such a trick works in our house. I'm too cheap to buy the play set. I've realized my son's probably going to be seeing a therapist when he's older, ANYWAY, so I might as well give them something to talk about. ;)