Ethical dilemmas‎ > ‎

Digital Marketing: Making Kids Even Fatter

posted Nov 7, 2010, 7:56 PM by Sara Fox   [ updated Nov 8, 2010, 7:32 AM ]
Advertising in today's digital media culture has become ubiquitous, extending far beyond the confines of television into an expanding realm of exposure to young people through new channels such as mobile devices, video games, social networks, IM programs, and virtual three-dimensional worlds. For example, marketing via cell phones now enables companies to directly target teenagers with customized offers based on previous buying history, location and other profiling data "designed to trigger immediate purchases and timed to reach them when they are near particular stores and restaurants." 

Several companies that have begun implementing successful kid-targeted digital marketing campaigns are fast-food chains and soft drink companies, such as McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Domino's Pizza, Sprite and Coca-Cola. This strategy, which is "increasingly designed to foster emotional and unconscious choices, rather than reasoned, thoughtful decision making," is contributing to childhood obesity and diet-related health problems. Though this strategy may increase profitability through the development of a new generation of ignorant (and fatter) brand advocates, concerned parties argue that it preys on kids naiveté, setting them up for long-term health and psychological impediments, and are hoping the FTC will curb this trend by instituting digital marketing rules that regulate the food messages targeting young people.