Childhood obesity is a serious problem and one UK charity has found a disturbing culprit: junk food advertisements. The charity’s research shows an alarming level of temptation among children; one child went so far as to tell researchers he wanted to “lick the screen” after an advertisement ended.
The study was organized by Cancer Research UK, which has linked childhood obesity to obesity and noted that obese people are more likely to develop cancer. They are part of an alliance of more than 30 health-minded UK organizations determined to regulate unhealthy food in the British Isles.
Junk food companies tend to use a similar formula in marketing to younger consumers. In addition to using Facebook to target potential consumers, their advertisements are filled with famous celebrities, catchy jingles, laughs, and bright colors.
These tactics are working scarily well. One boy told researchers that advertisements could bring on cravings, even if he was eating a different food: “You might be eating a piece of fruit, you might see the advert and you might just throw it in the bin and ask your mum for money and leg it to the shop,” he said in the study.
Another girl highlighted the persuasive power of the ad campaigns’ often cheerful messages: “It feels like you want to try [the food] because the guy’s dancing in [the advertisement] because he’s eaten it and it tastes good.”
Currently, there is a ban on junk food adverts during children’s programming; however, most children in this study were exposed to advertisements while watching television with their family between 7 and 9 pm. As a result, Cancer Research UK has called on Parliament to introduce regulations to “stop junk-food advertising on TV before the 9pm watershed to give children a better chance of a healthy life.”