Advertising has become a powerful and an essential tool in the hands of owners of goods and services to persuade customers with a view to increasing the sale of their products. The new technologies have no doubt given a new dimension to their persuasive role. Advertising has been defined as: ??? the nonpersonal communication of information usually paid for and usually persuasive in nature about products, services or ideas by identified sponsors through the various media.”(Bovee, 1992, p. 7).
Children and adolescents are an important chunk of our society. Advertisers knowing the innocence and credulity of children are, therefore, leaving no stone unturned to capture that important segment of the consumer society. It has been found that food products attracts children mostly.
Advertisers of food products are increasingly targeting children and adolescents because the objective behind it is to establish ???Brand Name Preference??™ at an age as early as possible. This targeting is important because huge sums of money are spent on advertising and there are several thousands of brands to sell and children and adolescents are attractive customers and future adult customers as they are viewed as a major market force by the food industry, they have become the target of great and specialized advertising efforts. There is growing interest on youth because of their spending habits, their purchasing influence and as future adults customers. Among food advertising and marketing channels used to target children and adolescents there are the internet, television advertising, in school marketing, product placements and youth targeted promotions of certain foodstuffs.
Television viewing starts early, exposure to food starts also at an early age. It has been found that in the U.S children??™s television the most frequently advertised product category is food and of all ads targeting food ads account for over 50%. On average children view one food commercial every five minutes of television viewing time. An average Australian child watches television for two hours and thirty minutes a day and advertisement at the time he watches television can occur at the rate of 30 pr hour or 75 per day. As a percentage of total ads on television food ads range from 25% to 48% and on an average it comes to 34%.
A commonly used marketing method for reaching children and adolescents are promotions, which include cross-selling, premiums and sweepstake prizes. In the U.S the food industry has forged promotional links with Hollywood and Network studios, toy companies and sports leagues. Burger king has forged a linkage Mc ledeon and Mc Donald??™s with the Fox Kids network. Burger Kings has sold chicken nuggets shaped liked teletubbies. In 2001 Coca-Cola and Disney became partners to build Disney character- branded children beverages.
There is an increase in school marketing to children and adolescents for the sale of soft drinks and brand name fast foods such as Pizza Huts, Taco Bell or Subuny. Among the reasons to do so there are the desire to increase sales, generate product loyalty and the need to reach a large number of customers in a antamed setting. The ads are appearing on school buses, in gymnasium, in book covers and even in bathroom stalls.
Too much exposure to the advertising of certain food products may contribute significantly to childhood an adolescent obesity and poor nutrition. Childhood overweight and obesity is a major public heath concern. It has been found that obesity contributes to fatigue, high blood pressure, memorial disorders, infertility, digestive complaints, low level of physical fitness and to the development of some cancers. The social??¦??¦??¦which include decrease productivity, discrimination, depression and low self esteem are less easily described and measured. At present 15% of U.S youth are overweight and almost 60% of overweight children have at least on cardiovascular risk factor and the type two diabetes mellitus is increasing in youth. Such trends may affect seriously the productivity and future heath of the U.S population and more revenue will have to be allotted to heath care.
Studies have shown that children exposed to food advertisement prefer and choose advertised products more frequently and have a higher prevalence of obesity than those not exposed to such ads.