Food advertising dollars – Do they influence consumer
I can still remember the first time I viewed Jean Kilbourne’s video called Killing
Us Softly. Jean began the video by asking her audience to do something no
one had probably asked them to do before; and that was to take advertising
seriously. In all her videos and books, Jean has done a masterful job of
demonstrating the power of advertising in shaping thoughts and behaviors of
people who continually insist they are not influenced by advertising. With Jean
Kilbourne’s assertion that advertising is a powerful force on human thoughts
and behaviors, consider this: The nutrition promotion budget for the U.S.
Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) soon-to-be released revised food guide
pyramid is $1.8 million. In 2002, the beer industry spent more than $1 billion
on advertising, and during the same year, about $240 million was spent
advertising chewing gum.
- The U.S. food industry now spends an estimated $34 billion a year on
advertising. Beer advertising leads the way for promoting a single food
product with $1.2 billion in annual sales, followed by soft drinks at $768
million, cereals at $571 million, and candy at $545 million (based on 2002
annual advertising expenditures).
- Fast food companies out spend beer companies when it comes to advertising.
According to a TNS Media Intelligence survey, in the first nine months of
2003, McDonald’s spent $465 million on advertising, followed by Wendy’s
with $238 million and Burger King with $221 million. During the
entire year of 2002, approximately $51 million was spent advertising fruit,
and $47 million was spent advertising vegetables.
- John Webster, of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion,
states the government will not rely on media advertising alone to promote
the new food guide pyramid. He says the government relies on
"information multipliers" like educators, nutritionists, and
government officials to disseminate nutrition messages.
- The VERB campaign, released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services and the Centers for Disease Control, comes in as one of the most
generous media funded projects of the federal government with a one year
budget of $36 million. The program encourages children to be more physically
- The recently released government healthy living campaign called Small
Step — www.smallstep.gov
— was developed in cooperation with the Ad Council as a series of
public service announcements. Many critics of the campaign, including those
who embrace the healthier at every size approach, criticize the campaign’s
reliance on weight loss as the marker for healthy living. Also, the campaign
puts a heavy emphasis on personal responsibility while not addressing issues
surrounding environmental influences that encourage Americans to overeat and
remain physically inactive; such as advertising campaigns for high
calorie/low nutrient dense foods.
Kilbourne J. Killing Us Softly (video), Cambridge Documentary Films,
TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Survey of restaurant advertising, 2003.
TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Analysis of advertising spending by the food
Martin A. Critics: Obesity fight starved for cash, U.S. relying on media
generosity to promote goals. Chicago Tribune, March 14, 2004.
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
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