Children have been one of the main targets of the marketing and advertising industry for decades now. For one reason or another, as a direct or indirect audience, childhood is a great consumer prescriber, one that companies want to conquer no matter what. But those messages and practices often move a fine line between what is right and what is directly objectionable.
The last of the analysis on the advertising situation and how brands try to connect with the children’s audience focuses on the performance patterns of the food industry. The conclusions are quite dire: as they point out in 20Minutos, the food industry completely bypasses the regulations and uses whatever claims they may be to capture the attention of children.
The study has been prepared by a group of researchers from the University of Cádiz and the University of Seville who have studied what type of advertisements are served on television and whether there is compliance with the so-called PAOS Code in Spain. The PAOS code is a set of standards that self-regulates how food products are advertised by the industry.
The data is overwhelming. Investigators speak of “a systematic breach of this code” in television advertising. Of the 177 advertisements that aired on the five channels analyzed, 9 out of 10 food and beverage advertisements violated the code.
The reasons leading to non-compliance
What is wrong with these ads? In general, ads massively promote products that are not considered essential. 83.05% of the foods featured in the advertisements fit this non-essential consideration.
By market group, dairy product ads are the worst performers. They are the group that violates the regulations the most, followed by advertisements for industrial pastries. Interestingly, a product niche closely linked to junk food is the one that is more respectful of the norm. The ads that commit the fewest violations are those for sugary drinks, sauces and snacks.
The points where the rules tend to fail are often closely linked to creativity. In general, advertisements “violate ethical standards” in the type of “communicative language” they employ. For example, your messages are often built on fantastic elements or creating “unattainable expectations.” Cookies sell, so to speak, impossible worlds to children.
Not only that: they also spin very fine when it comes to presenting the benefits of the product. Researchers even talk about misleading advertising. Ads unduly improve the perception of the benefits of a product or the promotions associated with it.
Half of the ads are for insane products
To this must be added that, in general, advertising for children is dominated by unhealthy products.
50% of all food and beverage ads that brands try to reach children under 12 are for unhealthy products. It is no longer that they are non-essential products, it is that they are directly unhealthy.