In a wonderful example of an overly myopic study result, the U. S. Federal Trade Commission announced that, hurray, kids see a lot fewer food ads on TV nowadays than they used to twenty years ago. In 1977, the typical kid saw more than 18 food advertisements each day, while today they are only exposed to 13.
This announcement comes from a two-day government sponsored workshop exploring the effect of kids’ marketing on obesity and the food industry’s efforts to self-regulate advertisements.
Meanwhile, the incidence of child obesity has more than doubled in the last thirty years. Coincidence?
The coverage of this announcement in the Washington Post shows why the announcement is really so much BS — partially because the most interesting paragraph is the very last one in the article.
Here’s how they end their story on this announcement:
“While food ads may be decreasing, the study showed a sharp increase in the number of TV ads promoting other television shows. Similarly, it said that kids see far fewer ads for cereal, candy and toys — the main items that were promoted in 1977 — but more ads for restaurants and fast-food chains, movies, video games and DVDs, and for other kinds of food such as yogurt.”
Can you see where there’s a huge error in categorization in this study, one that completely invalidates the results? (somehow, why do I suspect that it’s the advertisers themselves that were the primary force behind this bogus research)
Why isn’t yogurt considered a food? Why aren’t ads extolling the virtues of sweet, unhealthy meals at restaurants like Burger King, where their CEO admits that they’re sick of healthy and are deliberately adding more unhealthy items to their menu in an effort to increase sales (I kid you not), being categorized as food ads?
I’m not a big conspiracy theorist, but it’s sure easy to be skeptical of the “protection” of government agencies when so many of them willing let themselves be led around by the nose, pulled by the corporation’s ceaseless drumbeat of profit, profit, profit.