Is Big Fat the new Big Oil?

Troppo’s Don Arthur recently ran a piece about Clive Hamilton, advertising and consumer preferences called “The Chicken made me do it’. It was one of Don’s usually well thought pieces.

It was the comments section that also got me interested.

One person suggested advertising should be heavily taxed without spelling out exactly why. What a dull world it would be not seeing another Apple computer ad or a Shell ad? Some of that stuff is really creative. I’d bet my bottom dollar the person who made that comment wouldn’t be watching commercial TV.

Mel, a well-known nanny stater had this to say in support of a McDonald’s ban:

I’d still want to ban ads on kids tv due to this:

“Junk-food advertising’s influence on young children has been confirmed by research revealing vegetables taste better to preschoolers if served in McDonald’s wrappers.

In a study prompting renewed calls for restrictions on fast-food marketing, four out of five children preferred hamburgers, chicken nuggets, fries, milk and even baby carrots served in McDonald’s packaging, over identical food in plain wrappers.

Childhood obesity experts said the results of 300 individual tasting comparisons, with 63 children aged three to five, were alarming.

Seventy-seven per cent preferred fries served on a wrapper with the golden arches logo, compared with 13 per cent who liked them better in plain packaging.

Chicken nuggets in a bag branded with the logo were favoured by 59 per cent while more than half (54 per cent) thought baby carrots in a branded french fries bag tasted better than in a plain bag.

Forty-eight per cent liked the hamburger with the fast food company’s logo compared with 37 per cent who preferred it in a plain wrapper. Even milk tasted better, with 61 per cent preferring it in a McDonald’s cup.

The study found that the more televisions there were in a preschooler’s home, the more likely they were to prefer foods and drinks from McDonald’s.”

I hope the state isn’t paying for these “studies” as every adult knows by now McDonalds influences kids to buy them lots of burgers, chips and shakes (I always thought the shakes were delicious). If they weren’t advertising successfully McDonalds wouldn’t have become such an enormous firm.

Here’s the rub: How do you ban fast food advertising. Do you do it on a product-by-product basis? Do you ban the firm from advertising? What criteria would one use? If you choose the former do you place product bans on calorie intake per meal or drink/size? If so how about cappuccinos and lattes they sell now?

What is fast food anyhow? Would Chinese food or pizza &pasta joints also get the ad chop?

We always seem to hear about the dangers of eating McDonalds and KKC. What about pizza delivery chains? And if you’re hunting for big calories why not pick on the good old-fashioned fish&chip shop down the road as that stuff is cholesterol heaven…. there are at long last growing fish&chips chains that I bet will soon be advertising. Maybe they eventually get so big we can export the concept to the US and get them back for theirs.

If you’re picking on fast food outlets why not “fast” frozen foods as well?

Although I haven’t seen any correlation studies I am tending to think that one effect of “fatphobia” could be the significant rise (explosion) we have seen over the past decade of anorexia nervosa in teenage girls (and even boys now) who consider x-ray wide is “normal”.

Here’s an easier suggestion, let’s see the parents demonstrate a little more control over junior by not catering to every whim.


Wiki has this to say about anorexia and its prevalence:

In the 1980s,slimness embodied the ideal of feminine beauty. It is this that caused many women to incessantly diet in order to keep up with the demands of modern fashion.In a 1984 survey carried out by Glamor magazine of thirty-three thousand women between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, 75% believed they were fat, although only 25% were actually overweight.Indications of being thin was important to women of the upper class, and this class specific cultural model was pervasive throughout the media including television, film, magazines, and advertising.

Pretty soon nanny staters will be canvassing against “thin” demanding we ban ads with skinny people. Oh, they recently did that with catwalk models demanding a BMI limit above 16. How ironic.

16 thoughts on “Is Big Fat the new Big Oil?

  1. That McDonalds study seems rather flawed. The premise is that the kids experience McDonalds through advertising and therefore feel comfortable and prefer eating at McDonalds. When I was a kid there was McDonalds adds on TVs but I experienced McDonalds by actually eating there. I have a feeling that these kids eat there regularly and are used to seeing the golden Ms on their food and therefore are conditioned to feeling comfortable with it printed on the packaging. Feed kids anything wrapped in the packaging they are already comfortable with and it will be a reason they like it.

    It works with Adults as well. If people think their eating first class gourmet food and are sold that idea they will think that the food they are eating actually is world class. Penn and Teller did an episode on “The Best” where they perform an experiment having a prop artist create visually attractive food out of very cheap low quality materials and have an actor sell patrons as if they are getting world class cuisine. The people ate it up and claimed it was the best they have ever had.

    YouTube clip of Penn and Teller experiment

    The kids see special packaging and it essentially does the same thing, it dresses the product up and makes it seem more appealing.

  2. If a McDonalds wrapper increases the value that children place on vegtables then rather than calling for a ban on McDonalds they should be campaigning for McDonalds to buy out the vegatable retailers.

  3. JC,

    I think you’ll find that it’s generally believed that anorexia and obesity have different underying lying causes so whilst them might look superficially like two ends of the same spectrum, they arn’t. Most anorexic people, for example, don’t think they are thin. Most fat people think they are fat.

  4. “do you place product bans on calorie intake per meal or drink/size”

    Yes, I believe you have it. Now can you get around to banning these ads during childrens viewing hours?

  5. Conrad:

    Not sure if I agree with you. There has been an explosion of anorexia among teenage girls in well to do schools. A large part of the reason is attributed to the idea that fat is bad, skinny looks good. Put those thoughts in the heads of girls with a predisposition and you end up with a starving kid.

    Governments should get the hell away from lecturing people about weight.

  6. Firstly, is there really a problem? Childhood obesity is something we can all do our own little survey on. Look around your children’s school. How many obese children do you see, how many carrying a little puppy fat? If your children’s school is anything like my daughter’s, virtually none of the former and a few of the latter, most of whom are still to be seen racing around at breaks. Our eldest son’s photos show him to be quite pudgy when very young, now most people would want to by him a good meal he looks so thin. I was a beanpole as a kid, now I’m classified as overweight, not that that has negative health implications, quite the opposite:

    So where do all the supposedly frightening statistics on childhood obesity come from? I haven’t got a clue. But even if we take the ststistics at face value, they still tell us that the overwhelming majority of kids are not fat. So why do we need to have societal solutions to individual problems? Because the world is full of miserabilist nannies who can’t resist every apparent opportunity to interfere in the lives of others.

    I can honestly say that none of our four children ever successfully nagged us on the basis of advertising. They quickly learnt that any form of badgering would always prove fruitless so they didn’t bother. We did/do take them to MacDonald’s and the like. Such occasions are treats. The food is perfectly healthy as part of a balanced diet. Yes, a diet of nothing but burgers would be unhealthy, but the same is true of a diet of nothing but apples.

    We manage to bring up four (one is only half brung up) healthy children without state nannying and despite fast food advertising, lollies near checkouts, children’s television and all the other supposed perils of modern times.

    I wish the nannyistas would just mind their own bloody business and treat people as responsible adults. Some people will feel they need some help and advice and will ask for it, a small number will need to have intervention because their behaviour is genuinely harmful. But this is not what the nannies want to do, they don’t want to provide help to those who want it or need it, they want to interfere in all our lives irrespective of need. They are compelled to solve problems, many of which don’t actually exist, using half-baked, poorly researched ideas. When these don’t make the slightest difference, without batting an eyelid, they come up with more ineffectual solutions that treat the population as dullards incapable of running thier own lives.

    There’s my two penneth, but I’ve got to go cos the Elf & Safety man has told me to get off my soapbox so I don’t hurt myself.

  7. DocBud gave me the idea for a new word- Nanzi! A Nanzi is a nanny-state Nazi! (It could also be Nano-nazi=Nanzi, a dwarf version of a Nazi!) Nanzies give you orders for your own good, OR for the good of the Children!
    So there you have it, the new 5-letter swear word.

  8. No worries, JC. I mention it here free of copyright.
    I should imagine that any words mentioned here are free of copyright, unless you specifically say otherwise. And if anyone else has a better word, please let us know!

  9. Illicit drugs aren’t advertised and are the biggest market in the world. The older I get though the more I am convinced that words are not enough, in these days I’m more inclined to think that what most influences us is the opinions of those around us; particularly if we identify with a particular group of people.

    BTW, the obesity problem is a largely a myth,even recent Aus research indicated it is too much overblown. For some people there is always some bloody social disaster on the horizon and in my opinion those people are a social disaster.

    Docbud, where do those stats come from? In The Obesity Myth, the author makes an interesting observation: many obesity researchers work for obesity clinics. Oh but the precious scientific method, it has all been peer reviewed in double blind clinical trials how can that be wrong? After you’ve read enough epidemiological studies you realise these are not so much a blunt stick approach as too often being a bent stick approach.

  10. “many obesity researchers work for obesity clinics”

    What the? Where do you expect them to work? Anorexia clinics?

    This just in – many doctors apparently work in hospitals, mechanics are mostly seen working in garages, and many drug researchers work for drug companies. 😉

    Playful sarcasm aside, I’m broadly in agreement with DocBud – anecdotally, I just don’t see an increase in fat kids. Adult obesity is another thing, but that’s slightly tangential to the topic, and I don’t want Andrea to get twitchy.

  11. What the? Where do you expect them to work? Anorexia clinics?

    That’s fine, at least as you think. The rule now is: no libertarian must complain that climate scientists or greenies having vested interests in promoting AGW.

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