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Advertising to children in and out of school: will we go the American way?

(10 Posts)
WideWebWitch Sun 23-Jun-02 10:17:51

I've just finished Fast Food Nation and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is well written, fascinating and utterly terrifying about fast food and how it is processed. It was also very interesting on the subject of:

* Corporate advertising in schools in America leading to kids drinking more Coke and other soda drinks to ensure the school gets sponsorship money from the corporation.

* Corporations providing American schools with textbooks written and published by them (the corporations) that incorrectly state the facts whilst advertising the company to children: i.e. Exxon Education Foundation supply a textbook to American schoolchildren saying that "fossil fuels create few environmental problems and alternative sources of energy are too expensive".

* Marketing strategies aimed at school children while they’re at school, because they're a captive audience who legally have to be there for 7 1/2 hours a day.

Do you think this could happen here? Or do you think it already is? For example Walkers Crisps and Tesco books/computers for schools promotions and tokens (IMO) are encouraging parents to buy junk food (sometimes) but want us to feel in doing that so we are contributing to children’s schooling and education.

Should corporations be providing items like these? And selling to parents and children at the same time, to encourage early brand recognition and loyalty (and profit)?

Should all advertising aimed at children be banned as it is in Sweden since kids are too young to understand advertising? Will we go the American way with this? Can we stop it? Any Mars/Nestle/McDonalds employees out there with a different view? I’m interested to know what you lot think about this. Although I know these are big questions for a Sunday morning!

SueDonim Sun 23-Jun-02 12:36:07

Some schools have Nestle vending machines in them, presumably to make money for both school and company, as well as imprint the brand into tender young brains.

Bexi Mon 24-Jun-02 12:37:58

Wickedwaterwitch - I've not read Fast Food Nation yet but I bought it a couple of weeks ago and will do soon. Have you read No Logo? If you haven't you will probably find that book interesting also. There is a section on education (in America - mainly) with similar information that really is quite worrying to read.

To answer your question, I would not be surprised if British schools do go the same way within the next ten years, which was what I found worrying. In ten years time my two year old daughter will be at secondary school and I don't like the thought of her lessons being sponsored by various companies, or school meals being provided by whichever fast-food eaterie the school has a deal with. No Logo talks about situations within American high schools where a school may have a deal with Pizza Hut for example to provide school lunches - for the children who can afford to pay for them - whilst the company can stipulate that no cheaper pizzas can be sold elsewhere in the school, so poorer children and those who get free school meals are not offered the same (or even similar) food as their schoolfriends. I don't know if these situations will be reviewed in the near future given George W's moves towards promoting healthy eating in America, but unfortunately I imagine that it would prove to be too costly to consider. I'm not sure what school meals are like at the moment in Britain (any views?) but I would not be happy sending my daughter to school to eat pizzas, chips and burgers on a daily basis.

I fear that the debates at the moment concerning children's rights to higher and further education - and who should pay for it - are the beginnings of what might seem to ministers to be an attractive solution: investment from private companies to benefit the school. I don't think that it would be a case of ministers being naive and thinking that corporations would want to be involved for any other reasons than their own interests, but their intrusion into schools might end up being seen as something that just has to be endured to ensure the level of investment that is needed. I hope that I'm wrong though.

WideWebWitch Mon 24-Jun-02 19:28:27

Bexi, if you think it's going to go this way, any ideas what to do about it? Do the teaching unions have a view? Is any other group opposed and prepared to do something about it? I'm sure I read somewhere that there was a proposal to do a similar thing in a school here. Thanks, will read No Logo too.

SofiaAmes Mon 24-Jun-02 21:56:28

I think you are being naive if you think british school children eat any better than american school children. Or that british school children want coke any less because there is no vending machine selling it in their school. IMO the problem lies with the parents not the schools and advertising. I just attended a 2 year old birthday party where my son was the only child who did not know what to do with a bag of HulaHoops (ie open and eat them).

WideWebWitch Mon 24-Jun-02 23:12:23

Sofiames, I am *not* naive: my first post is about corporate sponsorship and funding of education and schools. In cases where this is happening (in America) sponsors expect schools to push Coke/their product (I can quote you the evidence if you really want it) as the money the school receives in funding is dependent on the amount of Coke/product the students buy (so they are selling, no?).

Therefore some American schools *are* actively encouraging children to eat/drink junk.

I agree, if children only eat junk food at home then their parents are to blame, but if they are *actively encouraged* to eat it by their school, then who is to blame? And if your son didn't know what a can of coke was when he got to school, would you want his teachers and peers encouraging him to drink it? IMO aggressive marketing strategies targeted at children are inappropriate, especially in schools.

I don't want to start an English/American way debate here at all: my point was that this *is* happening in parts of America and could happen here (may already be?). It would be naive to think that this will not have an effect on the eating and drinking habits of a generation. If corporations didn't think it effective they wouldn't spend their money this way. My comments are not directed at America or Americans as they're not personal but (mostly) factual.

And my son didn't know how to open a packet of Hula Hoops at that age either.

SofiaAmes Mon 24-Jun-02 23:46:57

wickedwaterwitch, sorry didn't mean to be antagonistic. I am just sceptical that corporate advertising in schools is truly the cause of the bad american diet. I grew up in Berkeley, Calif. in the 60's/70's where corporate advertising couldn't even make into the city, much less the schools. My friends still ate junk and the school lunches were as gross and non-nutritional as they are now 35 years later. My parents sent us to school with healthy packed lunches, limited our tv viewing and encouraged us to not blindly follow advertising of any kind (corporate or not).
And no I'm not a Mars/Nestle/McDonalds employee....

WideWebWitch Tue 25-Jun-02 08:44:34

Hey, SofiaAmes, that's OK, neither did I I agree with you, corporate advertising (in or out of schools) is not solely to blame for poor eating habits. However, it doesn't help.
Sounds like you had cool parents (I know, I know, I'm too old to use that word really!)

tigermoth Tue 25-Jun-02 13:09:40

Bit off the subject, but what do you think of those Mcdonald's TV ads, aimed at children, that impart simple health and safety messages rather than a hard sell? Isn't there one warning children not to swallow medicines because they are harmful? a touch ironic?

I find it quite spooky that Mcdonalds is trying to place itself so blatantly as a caring, child-minded organisation. At least with its plain, old fashioned beefburger advertising, you knew where you stood. I think the subtle shift from Mcdonalds, supplier of junk food, to Mcdonalds -supplier of child friendly services is worrying. I would rather my children saw Ronald Mcdonald dancing round a hamburger than telling them to be nice to their mother on mother's day. I don't want Mcdonalds messing with my children's minds.

I'm not so sure where I stand on eg: collecting crisp tokens for schools. As long as the manufacturer of the crisps is not imparting a heavy moral message to the children - 'our company cares about your education' etc - then I'm not violently against it, if the message is kept light ie 'crisps are fun and so are computers'. A fine line to tread, though.

WideWebWitch Tue 25-Jun-02 14:07:04

Tigermoth, I hadn't seen any of these ads until this morning: Ronald McDonald was dancing around a house telling children to be safety conscious in the home. I asked ds (4y, 8mo) what he thought it was about and he replied: "it's trying to tell us to go to McDonalds." So he got the message then! I agree with you, I object to this new and as you quite rightly say, spooky, form of advertising. One of McDonalds' missions as described in the aforementioned book is to become every consumers' "Trusted Friend" - this from an internal McDonalds memo - without ever using the phrase "Trusted Friend" in their advertising or marketing. Interesting don't you think?

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