Facebook and Childhood Obesity Linked in Latest Report

A new report finds fast food giants using Facebook to promote their unhealthy products to unwitting children
Just another reason why parents would want to keep their children off of Facebook.

Flickr / Spencer E. Holtaway / CC BY-ND 2.0

Just another reason why parents would want to keep their children off of Facebook.

Fast food companies are increasingly using Facebook campaigns to reach younger consumers, according to research published by the Irish Heart Foundation. The report, titled “Who’s Feeding the Kids Online?” outlines how the fast food industry has shifted their marketing focus away from websites and towards targeted Facebook advertisements.

Facebook provides an ideal forum for unhealthy brands to target younger consumers. Through “subtle, sophisticated and surreptitious methods” — specifically, hi-tech analytics — brands can identify those children most reactive to food and drink marketing and target them specifically with their Facebook advertisements. Moreover, parents still “don’t know what’s going on” on Facebook, making it an even more ideal advertising location.

The size and reach of Facebook makes this trend all the more worrying. Food and drink giants are realizing the power of Facebook advertising; researchers highlight a French Coca-Cola campaign, where Facebook ads accounted for 2 percent of marketing cost but 27 percent of the increase in sales.

Facebook does have its advantages in the food industry — just look at how it helped catch these dine-and-dashers — but with great power comes great responsibility. All we can hope is that Facebook can find a way to use its powers for good and not evil.

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