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Why TV Advertising Works

Why TV Advertising Works

To celebrate our victorious Olympic athletes, how would you like a free fitness tracker with your…Happy Meal? That’s what McDonalds offered, until reports came in that it caused skin irritation (one mom posted a picture of a red spot on her child’s arm that happened after wearing the band for eight minutes—it was shared online over 100,000 times). McDonalds went from the frying pan into the fire, or more appropriately the deep frier, which is where twice-fried Chicken McNuggets get their crunch.

But such marketing missteps don’t keep fast food companies, cereal-makers and snack manufacturers from targeting kids for one reason: Marketing food to children works—and here’s how.

For a study, researchers monitored brain activity of kids ages eight to 14 before and after seeing food commercials. Turns out an area in the kids’ brain associated with reward and value (the ventromedial prefrontal cortices) is “significantly more active after watching food commercials.” Translation: “Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

And what does that add up to? Well, since 1980 when Congress removed the FTC’s authority to restrict food advertising, the incidence of obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents!

Fortunately, Mom and Dad, research also indicates you can counter marketing campaigns by talking to your kids about the thousands of TV ads they see—what’s being sold, what the motive is, and how not to be swayed by bogus ads! If you take time to educate your kids, they’ll be able to enjoy a healthier, more productive future.

Medically reviewed in May 2018.

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