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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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  • Number of pages: 2

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1.1 Definition and matter

According to the Oxford Dictionary, obesity means the state of being grossly fat or overweight (n.d.). Nowadays, there is a lot to say about obesity among children. There are many causes for this problem: unhealthy eating habits, bad parenting, lack of exercise and the food industry. This research will inquire the role of advertising as a cause for childhood obesity.

Childhood overweight and obesity have become a bigger problem. Since 1980, worldwide obesity has more than doubled among adults and youth (The World Health Organization, 2014). Under the age of five, nearly forty-two million children were overweight or obese in 2013. This number is expected to rise to to seventy million by 2024, if the current trends continue. Obesity is a serious concern for health officials. It may lead to diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, joint problems, depression, and many other health issues.

1.2 Which messages does the audience receive regarding obesity?

The food industry is a major player in the field of advertising. Researchers have found that in the United States, nearly 25 percent targeting youth, focus on unhealthy content. Nearly 90 percent of this unhealthy content feature products that are high in fat, sugar, or sodium. Public concerns are growing and researchers search for the relationship between advertising and childhood obesity. (Valkenburg & Piotrowski, 2017).

McDonalds' advertising and persuasive techniques are a good example of advertising that is targeted on children. In the recent commercial: “McDonald's Happy Meal - Sing (2016)”, there are a lot of literary terms, like personification; The McDonalds Happy Meal has a face. Repetition; The words McDonalds and happy meal are communicated repeatedly. Allusion; the reference to the movie Sing. Alliteration: consonant sounds and tunes. According to Woodcock & Wright (2004), colours play an important role for customers in making decisions on what they like and dislike. The vibrant colours red and yellow seek children's attention.

For most children, the McDonalds experience is associated with a feeling of happiness. McDonalds responds to the desires of children. E.g. By handing out toys relating to popular movies or TV shows, the fast food industry creates a connections between the feelings that children have for the toys with a brand. Other examples are Ronald McDonald, McDonald's arches, website, McDonald's safety shows, educational materials and play-places.

It's no coincidence that so many advertisers focus on the young audience. Children and teens represent a fast-growing market segment. A primary market, a market of influencers, and a future market. (Valkenburg & Piotrowski, 2017). The budget and effort to reach this public has expanded considerably. The last few years unhealthy foods are increasingly marketed online, and the techniques are getting more sophisticated and effective (Martin, 1997; Moore, 2004; Pecheux & Derbaix, 1999; Story & French, 2004). Commercial messages becoming more pervasive, through multiple channels and cross-media promotions (Kunkel et al., 2004; McNeal, 1992; Story & French, 2004).

1.3 How might these advertising messages influence people's beliefs, attitudes, and behaviour?

The cultivation hypothesis

People are using the mass media to learn about the society in which they live, something that is known as the cultivation hypothesis (Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorielli, 1994). ANDERE BRON Because the media often show a skewed picture of reality, people may develop one of two distinct images of the world: a social reality, or a TV reality.

The Cultivation theory, or the social cognitive theory (Bandura, 1994), has been usefully applied to nutrition and child overweight prevention (Cole, Waldrop, D'Auria, & Garner, 2006) and used as a basis for a model on youth eating behaviour that includes mass media. Based on theory, it would be expected that children exposed to patterns of eating behaviour modeled as prevalent and favourable in TV food ads will adopt cognitions and behaviours supportive of such.

According to H.G. Dixon et al., 2007, TV exposure was associated with more positive attitudes toward junk food. These findings are consistent with the cultivation hypothesis. Heavier TV viewers are more inclined to hold beliefs that reflect TV's dominant and recurring messages. The findings are also consistent with the behavioural perspective, that junk food advertising supports unhealthy eating behaviour by reinforcing and normalizing that behaviour (Hoek & Gendall, 2006).

1.4 Which effects have been found by research?

According to Valkenburg and Piotrowski (2017), researchers shaped tree hypothesis to explain why advertising may lead to childhood obesity. The first one is the advertising-effect hypothesis, which states that exposure to food advertising results in a longing to eat. The second is the activity-displacement hypothesis, which states that media use is replacing more active pursuits like playing outside or sports. The thirds one, is the grazing hypothesis, which states that children are more likely to snack when watching television.

Dutch researchers showed that the time children spent watching commercials was correlated with an unhealthy diet, supporting the advertising-effect hypothesis (Andreyeva, Kelly, & Harris, 2011). In particular, research has established that advertising has a greater effect on younger children's brand attitude, request behaviour, parent-child conflicts, and obesity.

Knowing that children are often exposed to TV commercials, online bannering, interactive games and printed media, it's a problem that children assume advertising as objective information instead of persuasion. Children do not understand the different methods of marketing, so they are easily seduced. They're missing the knowledge to take a grounded decision. (World Health Organization, 2015).

Emotions are omnipresent throughout marketing as they influence information processing, mediate responses to persuasive appeals, and measure the effects of marketing stimuli (Bagozzi, Gopinath, & Nyer, 1999). 

Robinson, Borzekowski, Matheson, and Kraemer (2007) demonstrated that when food is presented in McDonald's packaging, children preferred these foods compared with non branded packaging. Young children may be especially susceptible to the effects of subtle marketing strategies because they can express desire for certain products and characters but are not old enough to be skeptical of commercial messages. Given the potential of licensed characters to influence children's choices, an understanding of their effects would help inform policy decisions regarding government regulation of food marketing to children.

1.5 Subconclusion

All in all, we can say that advertising is definitely playing a role in the cause for childhood obesity. At this point, we just can't tell the magnitude. However, advertising is just one factor in our current “obesogenic” environment (Dixon et al., 2007). There are many other factors, such as unhealthy eating habits, bad parenting, lack of exercise and the food industry as a whole. Although the last few years unhealthy foods are increasingly marketed online, and the techniques are getting more sophisticated and effective (Martin, 1997; Moore, 2004; Pecheux & Derbaix, 1999; Story & French, 2004). Food advertising supports unhealthy eating behaviour, by reinforcing and normalizing that behaviour. Blablabla to be continued…

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