So I was walking by the cereal aisle of my local supermarket and had stopped to look at the classic KoKo Krunch and Honey Stars. A thought then struck as I looked at the cartoony characters, what makes junk food appealing to children and how are they marketed in Singapore?
In the opening video above from the documentary SuperSize Me, I had a feeling of concern as it highlights a situation in America where junk food ads are highly present in children TV channels (e.g. cartoons) and a more developed coverage for these issues can be seen in a separate documentary, Fast Food Babies.
Some of the concerns shared by the health authorities in Singapore involves the development of dietary habits from young that may involve a preference for processed foods and that these habits may be harder to change once enforced. In combination with the rising obesity trends, a 2015 guideline for the food industry was set via the efforts of the Ministry of Health, Health Promotion Board and the Advertising Standards of Singapore .
The protection these guidelines served are worthy of praise for it enables parents to have a better role in guiding their children’s dietary choices. This is in stark contrast of the food marketers having a stronger influence than parents in what is known as the ‘nag factor‘, when parents have to comply with their child’s request . This occurs mainly due to neglect or oversight about the programs or commercial in children TV shows.
From my personal experience growing up watching television, I really thought that cereal was needed in a healthy breakfast. The advertisement above was really catching I can recall, partly due the short story and the ending phrase “A great chocolaty taste!“. Speaking of cereals, I would like to take this opportunity to showcase the different types of commercials I watched while growing up.
Cookie Crisp was another cereal brand that I perceive was this fun and enjoyable product – based on the commercial.. I mean the idea of eating a bowl of cookies with milk for breakfast was a like a dream come true. Interestingly however, it was rather unappealing in its taste, it seem rather hard and mild and I had expected something more of a Chips More cookie.
But if we are talking about cereals, Oreo O‘s was definitely one that had kept me wanting for more. It mixes the crunchy cereal and soft marshmallows with an ecstasy of sweetness while the thick, creamy and cold HL milk had made it one of the best then, in my opinion.
Cereal companies were by far more consistent with their advertisements and they understand how best in appealing to the younger audiences – They definitely had me convinced.
But cereal companies don’t deserve the spotlight alone, the confectionery companies had done a great job as well. Most noticeably in their packaging and the costs as well. Yupi Gummy Candy, M&Ms and Smarties are great prime examples for their utilisation of bright colours to make it more interesting.
Yupi Gummy Candy however, had taken it further to customise many of its products in the form of pizzas, hamburgers, hot dogs, dinosaurs, worms, cola bottles and bears. The shapes and the exquisite use of different flavourings really added a sense of fun and excitement to these delights. They were also a favourite to be used in gifts or awards for children, likely adding an association of positivity or happiness.
Cadbury had done a splendid job in its marketing as well. Taking the two videos below as reference, the first was done as a clay-animation. The main catch of the theme was the bubbly tune, the fantasy of a chocolate world and the ever important …”Wouldn’t it be nice?” as the ending phrase. In all honestly, I was a Cadbury fan a few years back, it was definitely creative of them to get the idea out.
Considering the quirky nature of the next video, its oddity had made it quite popular back in 2009. I can even recall a classmate mimicking the ‘eyebrow dance‘. To be frank, the ad that has nothing to do with chocolates and I believe it to be a marketing strategy by not placing an emphasis on the product, consumers would more or less focus on the message or the idea behind it. It could also be an unsuspecting factor as well, though these are just speculations.
Oreo’s “Twist Dip Dunk“
Kraft’s Oreo! Delicious as it was, the idea of the product was its prime selling factor. Taking the commercial as reference, one similarity is apparent among other ads we have seen and it is the association of positivity with said product.
The video’s appeal lies in the joyous tune, the key sound effects being the crunch and laughter, but above all else is the children factor. It contributes to that warm fuzzy feeling inside when you look at something adorable and one that you wouldn’t mind re-watching again. These feelings associate itself with the product that could influence how you look at Oreos.
In addition, the “Twist Dip Dunk” instructions on the back of the product’s packaging instills a sense of simplicity that makes it memorable. Upon which, consumers may make their own variations to how they consume Oreos – either by eating the cream first or biscuits later, eating it whole or dipping in milk. Yet all of these are just my experiences alone, but it tells a convincing story of how junk food ads are perceive by the children who grew up watching them.
The Mentality Impact
According to the American Psychology Association (APA), the amount of time that a children spends watching television can be associated to a likelihood in being obese. This is due to a shift in preference concerning diets and requests – for foods high in calories, but low in nutrients, when exposed at such an early age. Other concerns may include a dissatisfaction in body image and eating disorders .
In an international study of 11 countries done between 2007 to 2008 by a collaboration between 13 independent research groups, they had analysed the rate of non-core (high in fat, sugar or salt) food advertising during peak hours of children viewing times in 3 main television channels. The study had also excluded any holiday periods to only showcase the average broadcasting period.
The results gathered from the analysis had showed that, an average of 5 ads can be observed at any given hour, fast food and confectionery advertisements were particularly dominating and that more than 50% of food advertisements are based on non-core products in all the countries analysed . Understanding that when a child is bombarded with these types of commercials, and then lack the awareness of the ad’s persuasive intents, it can become a very exploitative process.
So referring back to the 2015 guideline set by the health authorities in Singapore in the regulation of these types of ads, it was a good move to stop the onset of obesity in this country. However, this but one factor, the study cited above had shown that children may not necessarily watch the TV channels targeted for them and thus, proper parental guidance is required for fast food ads do permeate through other channels.
In the day and age of technology where screen time is so prominent, more youths that are growing today will only get more familiar with technology. With advertisements present not just via televisions but on online platforms, there needs a better awareness and education on this situation. Alternatively, we can better market core food products that possess a higher nutrient density or promote better lifestyle choices in utilizing the age of technology towards the benefits of health. In either way, we can all play a better role in society in guiding one another and to stop selling garbage to our children.
Making Choices – Healthy Living Every Day
- Singapore Ministry of Heath. 2015. Fact Sheet: Food Advertising Guidelines [online]. Available from: https://www.moh.gov.sg/content/dam/moh_web/PressRoom/Highlights/2014/COS%202014/Food%20Advertising%20Update%20Highlights.pdf [Accessed 7 May 2016].
- John Hopkin’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. 2011. The Nag factor: How do children convince their parents to buy unhealthy foods? [online]. Available from: http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2011/borzekowski-nag-factor.html [Accessed 7 May 2016].
- American Psychological Association. 2016. The impact of food advertising on childhood obesity [online]. Available from: http://www.apa.org/topics/kids-media/food.aspx [Accessed 7 May 2016].
- Bridget. K., Halford. C.G. J., Boyland. J.E., Chapman K., Castano B.I., Berg. C., Caroli. M., Cook. B., Coutinho G.J., Effertz T., Grammatikaki. E., Keller. K., Leung R., Manios Y., Monteiro R., Pedley C., Prell H., Raine K., Recine E., Majem S.L., Singh S., Summerbell C. 2010. Television Food Advertising to Children: A Global Perspective. NCBI [online]. September 2010. 100(9). 1730 – 1736. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920955/ [Accessed 7 May 2016].