This is How Fast Food Commercials Lure Your Children

Smurfs happy meal

While adults are tempted by close up shots of a burger or salad, fast food companies use toys and movie tie-ins to reel in kids. This and other interesting findings are from a recent article published in PLos entitled How Television Fast Food Marketing Aimed at Children Compares with Adult Advertisements.

Here are some interesting stats:

  • 99% of fast food commercials aired during the study period were for McDonald’s and Burger King
  • 4 out of 5 commercials aired on 4 primary channels – Cartoon Network, Disney, Nickelodeon, and Nicktoons.
  • Toy giveaways were shown in 69% of the kid commercials vs. virtually none in adult commercials.
  • Movie tie-ins accounted for over half the children’s commercials vs just 14% for adult commercials.

What can we learn from this?

  • Marketing to kids is aggressive, pushes all the “right” buttons, and leaves parents a lot of work to undo the damage done.
  • Fast food companies have a 2 pronged strategy to turn our kids into “lifers” (life long loyal brand advocates) – lure them in with toy bribes and then get them used to the food.
  • Despite assurances that the industry can self regulate by not promoting unhealthy foods in advertising to children, having the toys become the focus of the ads seems to be a very effective workaround. It obviously does not solve the problem

How do you manage your child’s expectations when it comes to fast food?

  • kicking the habit

    In most cases you can just buy the toy, or you used to, I am sure they still do it

  • Cactus_Wren

    Counting down to “OH but MYYY children NEVER ask for fast food, they KNOWWWW better” in 5 … 4 … 3 …

  • Andrew Meza

    We have removed cable from our house and my son watches kids netflix. So no commercials at all.

  • Catherine

    We cancelled cable and use Netflix too. Don’t have to fight the onslaught of advertising.

  • Jenna

    I tell them they can have a double cheese burger off the dollar menu and don’t buy them a happy meal. In my house I am in charge!!

  • Ciaran

    I point out to the little ones that the “free” plastic toys from whatever latest movie-tie in will reside in a landfill long after we are all gone the way of the dodo bird. I showed them a landfill (from a distance) and said, “Look all those former Happy Meals buried amongst the rest of the waste.” They got it.