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McDonald’s Australia shamed for marketing techniques that target children

McDonald’s Australia shamed for marketing techniques that target children
January 6, 2016

McDonald’s Australia have maintained a 10 year ‘winning’ streak with the award of three ‘Shame’ awards in the recent Parents’ Voice Fame and Shame Awards.

They crowned their efforts by winning a special 'Worst of the Decade' award, for the company most often nominated for marketing junk food to children over the last 10 years.

Also a clear winner in the Digital Ninja and Pester Power Awards, parents believe that McDonald’s Australia is continuing to develop marketing techniques that target children.

McDonald’s Happy Reader promotion offered children a selection of free books and digital readers with the purchase of a McDonald’s Happy Meal. However, to collect all 10 books and 16 digital readers, children would have needed to consume 23 Happy Meals in an eight week period.

Traditional TV advertising where the ‘Happy Meal’ character played a starring role in a clip from the Minions movie saw McDonald’s pick up the Pester Power Award.

Alice Pryor, Campaigns Manager for Parents’ Voice, believes that parents are frustrated with the lack of change in the way junk food companies target children, stating "it’s very disappointing that so little progress has been made in the last decade. In fact, many parents fear that it’s worse than ever as junk food companies now use digital and social media to direct their junk food products to children.

“There is virtually no regulation around advertising using social media, so companies are developing games, apps, or Facebook sites using junk food products as the ‘hero’ character and designing them to appeal to kids and teenagers.

“Protecting children from being bombarded by junk food marketing is no longer achieved by simply turning off the TV! Parents need to be constantly vigilant about a digital world that surrounds kids, is mobile and is the perfect tool for promoting junk food products.”

Parents also have to be careful about ‘health claims’ that are used to market unhealthy food. Coca-Cola Amatil launched Coke Life in 2015 amid a flurry of healthier option claims that did not fool parents who voted it winner of the ‘Smoke and Mirror’s category.

Mother of two, Cheryl McLeod from Melbourne, is annoyed that unhealthy products are marketed using language that suggests they are healthier than they are.

McLeod explained “I voted for Coke Life, because it is promoted as a healthier option.

“You have to look past the green coloured packaging and study the label to realise that there are 10 teaspoons of sugar in a 600ml bottle.”

Sport is another favourite target of the junk food industry. KFC’s sponsorship of the Big Bash League got parents’ vote for the ‘Foul Sport Award’.

Up against competition from McDonald’s sponsorship of junior sport and a Gatorade commercial featuring Gary Ablett, KFC was judged to be the worst for sending a misleading message to children that consuming unhealthy products is consistent with a sporting career and healthy lifestyle.

In good news for the ABC, two of its programs went head to head for the inaugural Media Spotlight Award, for programs highlighting inappropriate marketing claims to children. Finishing in front by a whisker was Charlie Pickering’s The Weekly, which featured a comprehensive look at the state of junk food advertising and regulation in Australia and its relationship to childhood obesity.

Gruen was a commendable second for its 4th November segment which framed the issue of marketing to kids, highlighting pester power and the use of children's TV characters.

Nutrition Australia and Produce Marketing Association (ANZ) was commended in the Parents’ Choice Award for their fun Pick Right. Feel Bright! campaign which features The Wiggles as ambassadors and encourages families to choose fresh fruit and vegetables over processed foods, to increase healthy eating and improve health.

Presenting the Awards, Dr Alessandro Demaio, Co-Founder of global social change movement, NCDFREE and festival21, stated “the leading causes of global deaths are Non-Communicable Diseases including type 2 diabetes, cancers and heart disease.

“An unhealthy diet is a leading risk factor for disease and when one in four Australian children is overweight or obese, these examples of junk food marketing to kids are frankly appalling.

“Big Food’ companies are not interested in our children’s health, they are interested in getting us to consume more of their products and increase profits by whatever means necessary.

“It’s essential that we all understand the facts, and see through their smoke and mirror tactics to deter public focus on regulation.”

“It’s sad that 10 years on we still need the Fame and Shame Awards, but two ‘Fame’ awards this year is a positive step. It is encouraging to see more debate about the wider concerns of junk food marketing to children and its association with a rise in the consumption of unhealthy food.

More information and media coverage of the issues help to equip parents with the facts, see beyond the hype, and call for better regulatory guidelines and protection for children.”

Parents’ Voice is an online network of parents who are interested in improving the food and activity environments of Australian children. Formerly known as The Parents’ Jury, Parents’ Voice was formed in 2004 and represents thousands of Australian parents. Parents’ Voice is supported by Cancer Council Australia, Diabetes Victoria, VicHealth, YMCA Australia and the Bluearth Foundation.

List of award winners and nominees 

Digital Ninja
Winner:
Happy Readers - McDonald’s Australia
Fandangles - Peter’s Ice Cream
Whizz Fizz - Fyna Foods

Pester Power
Winner:
Minions Happy Meal - McDonald’s Australia
Allen’s Makes Smiles - Allen’s Lollies, Nestlé
Made for Kids - Kinder Chocolate, Mondelez Made for kids

Smoke and Mirrors
Winner:
Coke Life - Coca-Cola Australia
The Right Kinda Nuts - Kraft, Mondelez
Pack a Little Joy - LCM - Kellogg’s

Foul Sport
Winner:
Sponsorship of Big Bash League - KFC Australia
Fuelling Future, Gary Ablett - Gatorade - Schweppes Australia
Macca’s Junior Sports Grants - McDonald’s Australia

Parents’ Choice
Winner:
Pick Bright. Feel Right! - Nutrition Australia, Produce Marketing Association Australia and New Zealand and The Wiggles
Finish with the Right Stuff - New South Wales Health
National Walk Safely to School Day - Pedestrian Council of Australia

Media Spotlight
Winner:
Junk Food Advertisements - The Weekly (ABC – 10th June 2015)
Minions and Junk Food - Gruen (ABC – 4th November 2015)

Worst of the Decade
Winner:
McDonald’s Australia
Kellogg’s

3rd December 2015 - KFC AUSTRALIA CELEBRATES CRICKET ON THE COUCH

15th May 2015 - FAST FOOD LABELLING CHANGES FOOD PURCHASING BEHAVIOURS IN YOUNG PEOPLE

10th August 2014 - WELLNESS ADVOCATES SLAM MCDONALD’S HOME DELIVERY PLANS

10th June 2014 - FAST FOOD SPONSORSHIP SWAMPS CHILDRENS SPORT

2nd February 2014 - HEALTH GROUPS URGE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT TO CURB THE JUNK FOOD INDUSTRY

31st January 2014 - HEALTH MINISTER SAYS PARENTS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR GETTING CHILDREN ACTIVE

15th February 2011 - SPORTING STARS ENCOURAGE JUNK FOOD CONSUMPTION


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