Fame & Shame Awards: Pandemic no barrier for unhealthy food marketing
Australian parents have taken a stand and are demanding that unhealthy food manufacturers distance themselves from advertising to children as part of the Parent’s Voice Fame & Shame Awards. Now in its 16th year, the annual awards highlight the worst of unhealthy food marketing and celebrate those promoting a healthier lifestyle to kids instead.
In a clear example of the increasing amount of unhealthy food marketing targeting children, this year’s Fame & Shame Awards feature a new shame category: Ad-demic. The Ad-demic award is given to a campaign that parents believe have shamelessly utilised the COVID-19 pandemic to sell their products to Australian children.
While Victoria celebrates its double zero ‘doughnut days’, parents have called out this year’s Ad-demic winner and doughnut heavy weight, Krispy Kreme, for using social media ads that encourage children to ‘multitask’ by staying home, eating doughnuts and playing video games.
Alice Pryor, Parents’ Voice Manager said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is a time to be focussing on healthy behaviours, but companies continue to put profits ahead of children’s health. In a digital world, targeting children in a pandemic is not hard, but it should be. The Australian Government needs to act to protect our children.”
After a year spent largely at home, there’s been an increase in children using digital technology, but there’s also been a rise in the amount of unhealthy marketing targeted towards children on digital platforms.
VicHealth CEO, Dr Sandro Demaio, reflected on data from the organisation’s new ‘Under the Radar’ Report: “We found that an estimated 72 million data points, such as age, location and interests, will have been collected by companies on each and every child by the age of 13. This data can be sold to unhealthy marketers who can effectively target and attract your child.”
Not only has the amount of marketing to children increased, but it has become more nuanced with the introduction of new ‘kid-friendly’ platforms, such as Twitch and TikTok, and promotions by influencers which can make it hard for both kids and adults to identify marketing in disguise.
The Digital Ninja shame category highlights the most insidious examples of these kinds of innovative marketing techniques, with Coca-Cola’s use of Amazon’s Alexa device to order free personalised bottles of coke being voted the worst of the worst by Australian parents.
Ms Pryor added, “For the first time in the history of the Fame & Shame Awards, we have digital marketing examples in all categories except for Bother Boards.”
The Bother Boards category didn’t get off lightly though, with KFC’s bus billboards receiving a shaming for using low prices and catchy slogans to appeal to teens and tweens who see their ads as they take public transport to and from school.
Kelly Kennington, Obesity Prevention Manager at Cancer Council Western Australia, added: “There’s a huge amount of public support at the moment for the removal of unhealthy marketing on state owned assets, especially amongst parents. Parents can’t be with their kids every moment of every day. Instead, they need policy change to ensure that environments frequented by their kids, like bus stops, train stations and shopping centres are free from unhealthy advertisements.”
McDonald’s Australia has been awarded the Pester Power shame category in this year’s awards, for their television commercial, ‘Denise’, which was deemed by even the Advertising Standards Community Panel to have breached marketing to kids’ codes.
Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition said: “We have industry setting their own rules on advertising to children, so it is no surprise they are not working. We need government to set higher standards with regulation to protect children from this pervasive and powerful marketing.”
McDonald’s Australia continued to be condemned, with parents giving them the Foul Sport shame award for their integrated AFL sponsorship program.
Ms Pryor said: “It’s not just television commercials parents need to worry about anymore. It’s