Advertising to Children

So in the past couple classes we have been discussing the ethics od advertising, and more specifically advertising to children. Although many people shared their opinions, but there is one company where I feel this issue is the most prevalent – McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast food retailer.

Recently, the company has come under increased criticism for their advertising, as seen in the article linked below. Critics claim that the use of a clown as the face of the company, and the inclusion of things like the Happy Meal or playgrounds in restaurants is their attempt to “get around parents and get to kids directly”.  However, McDonald’s defends their decisions claiming how “Ronald McDonald is an ambassador to McDonald’s, and he is an ambassador for good”.

The company hasn’t taken these criticisms without reacting. They now allow “parents to request milk or juice instead of soda in Happy Meals and offers sliced apples with carmel sauce and chicken nuggets instead of French fries and hamburgers.” They’ve also improved their advertising, now “fulfilling a pledge to include a nutritional or physical activity message in all communication with children starting in 2012”.

Although I defend the right for companies to advertise to kids, I believe certain regulations should be implemented in terms of what you are able to advertise. This sparks up the common debate of free speech vs. defending children’s rights. Here in Quebec, studies have shown that “bans on advertising to children is linked to lower obesity rates”. Studies conducted here “found that a 32-year ban on fast-food advertising to kids in electronic and print media resulted in a 13 percent reduction in fast-food expenditures and an estimated 2 billion to 4 billion fewer calories consumed by children in the province”. More on this study is found below:

So what now? Advertising to children is technically legal, but ethically incorrect. I believe that it is up to parents to control what their children see, but also governments should attempt to regulate media to children too. It’s been shown that regulating this can improve our children’s health, so should we act in this to protect them, or leave it up to parents alone?

What are your thoughts?