July 8, 2013 Update: Join the #MomsNotLovinIt Twitter chat about McDonalds and other fast food giants specifically targeting kids of color, and the new study in Journal of American Medical Assn on Hispanic/pediatric media exposure and the impact on children’s health!
May 10, 2013 Out of sight, out of mind? Hardly.
As a proud participant in the Mother’s Day “Mom’s Not Lovin It” campaign and open letter to their CEO, I’m thrilled to say social media is a great Mother’s day GIFT in itself to be able to callout vapid values and get the word out to parents on issues impacting their children’s health.
I’ve been writing for seven years at Shaping Youth about the subversive marketing tactics of junk food giants that upend efforts for health and wellness to gain mindshare while off the radar of parents.
Make no mistake, junk food is the tobacco of the 21st century where public health is concerned. (‘secret documents’ from the sugar industry on science health spins are noteworthy indeed) Here are a just a handful of reasons why moms are “Not Lovin It” which I bring back from the archives to the front page to keep top of mind for context, since new parents coming into this fight need to know it’s not ‘been handled’ despite the headline news often trumpeting industry ‘self-rein’:
Thrilled to say, this Mother’s Day, influential moms across the web unite to take a strong stand and stop “Clowning Around With Kids Health” pushing back hard against McDonalds as a key perpetrator and perpetuator of “work arounds” using teachers and PTA sponsorships teaming with schools and tapping mom bloggers as corporate shills and ‘parenting partners’…
Here’s a succinct sentiment from Jessica Gottlieb, one of the many “Mom’s Not Lovin It” uber-bloggers, who sums her Mother’s Day wish to “leave my kids alone”…That sums it pretty well, lift the weight of the golden arches off our backs, and quit the sneaky school tactics, folks.
Not only are “Moms Not Lovin It” …
…They’re using their social media clout to callout McDonalds’ tactics since two of the most trusted sources for kids, schools and families are being tapped regularly as corporate shills and ‘parenting partners.’ (geez, wasn’t The Olympics bad enough?)
McDonalds isn’t the only fast food offender, obviously, but their ongoing marketing gaffes have hit some new lows lately which they scramble to pull only after outcries of tastelessness…ugh. (facepalm on the corporate ethics in play universally here)
Not to mention…uh…McDonalds fries used in Pre-K reading? Seriously, people? This is where those ‘partners’ come in with parental complicity and cluelessness introducing brands early and often. No, that’s not the corporation’s fault, but the normalization of their brand as urban wallpaper is something parents need to start spotting early on.
As for the ‘better for you’ positioning, this press release from the NotLovinIt campaign sums it well:
“McDonalds has also sought to persuade mothers that its brand is no longer unhealthy by ramping-up marketing of “healthier” options like oatmeal with the sugar content of a Snickers bar and salads that actually rival burgers and fries for calories. To make matters worse, McDonald’s has given perks to hundreds of bloggers to endorse its product.
It also hosted an all-expense paid trip to Chicago for mom bloggers, in hopes they’d in turn act as “ambassadors” for the brand. And in spite of the health impacts and incendiary marketing tactics, the corporation’s apologists argue McDonald’s has the right to market as much as it wants to whomever it wants: the issue is one of choice.”
It feels like today’s “Friday Food Chat” on Twitter (storify summary here) has summoned Moms Rising like the cavalry coming just in time for Mother’s Day back up; especially amidst world-weary ‘what more can we do’ shoulder shrugs that have left many parents feeling helpless and forlorn on the digital frontier.
It’s as if corporations ride into our towns like corrupt sheriffs wearing a white hat of ‘better for you now, new improved’ messaging while embedding more impressions per page view deep into dark holes of alternative content methods reaching kids.
It often feels like the insidiousness has gotten ‘worse not better’ due to the plethora of platforms, from advergaming and mobile/social platforms to contests, virtual worlds and cartoon networks that supposedly were going to clean up their act.
(Ahem, looking at YOU Nickelodeon; check out Public Health Institute’s clever outlaw style ‘wanted’ poster for “impersonating a responsible media company” this spring.)
And it’s irksome that many parents have disengaged and disconnected from the junk food issue altogether in ‘drive by’ distraction and denial that it “isn’t happening in their home/school” or assuming “it’s been handled” with the powers that be churning up the headline news.
So to answer ‘what else can parents do?’
For starters, educate with health literacy and media literacy…
One peek at DigitalAds.org reveals a bounty of food and beverage industry tactics, showcasing just how far corporations will go to embed their brand. (here’s Digital Ads’ Facebook page to be au courant, where they serve up fresh studies like Spanish childrens’ TV shows blitzing kids with junk food ads)
Truth is, when the junk food valve is shut off in one area, fast food giants grow back like a Junk Food Hydra, amping up to more covert levels of persuasion and manipulation with highly sophisticated misinformation, including ‘energy balance’ messages tucked into benign sounding partnerships with trusted influencers like registered dieticians (check out those ‘big food’ ties!) hospital associations, PTAs and schools…
New media channels for sugary snacks parallel a Greek mythology lesson…even if the head is cut off the Hydra, two more pop up on the serpent to replace it. The junk food siren endlessly beckons and companies like McDonalds are master manipulators to ‘position’ the message as anything other than what it is…getting into your kids’ head. (Read Pandora’s Lunchbox overview for just a sampling of what you need to know on the health front with additives and chem cuisine in processed foods)
What’s next a heart health wing at your local hospital sponsored by McDs to ‘partner for health?’ (Don’t laugh, A & F did this already selling sexualization via hospital sponorship of a massive mural at a children’s hospital in Ohio! McDonalds has already paid to bring Ronald into schools with everything from McTeacher’s nights and PTA sponsored events to fitness messages…facepalm.)
It’s insidious, and important for families to KNOW how long and hard kids health advocates have been slogging through the junk food slime to crusade for boundaries and barriers because there’s always leakage and infiltration seeping in under the doors.
Sometimes it’s the school doors…other times it’s the HOME doors…
Did you know Burger King is amidst HOME delivery plans to test market getting junk right to your door? McDonalds will no doubt respond as McDonalds and BK have been gunnin’ for each other in a brutal battle of burger wars for a loooooong time.
Parents of after-school latch-key kids might wanna take note of that little ditty, especially with allowance money and parents thinking kids ‘don’t have access’…
You can bet your bippy there will be some form of McDonalds ‘response’ to glean market share and go after even kids and parents in even MORE direct, calculating ways to ‘earn brand trust’ and undermine kids’ health. After all, Americans spent more than $69 billion at independent takeout restaurants in 2011, according to a Euromonitor International Report via Nation’s Restaurant News, so they’re ripe for ‘new market opportunities.’
Cautionary note to parents: Even though it feels like EVERYONE is complicit in plying your kids with junk food (great article on junk smothering antics by Dr. Yoni Freedhoff in US News & World Report Health section) do NOT make junk food “contraband” as it only serves marketer’s needs to make it developmentally desirable to push the envelope of forbidden fruit…That’s a tactic we counter-market with energy drinks all the time, and it’s a Monster problem.
Instead, instill deep media literacy and health literacy in kids with counter-marketing tactics BEFORE the junk food giants start knocking on your door. Literally.
As headline news trumpets industry ‘self-rein’ for dialing down junk food marketing, and inches towards press coverage of ‘improved menu items’ as giant steps in corporate responsibility, parents might want a solid reality check to see just how much lip-service is being served.
Join us this Mother’s Day to send a clear message to McDonalds that Moms Are Not Lovin It…Every other manufacturer of public health problems and vapid values should also take heed. Moms are on the move, and marching your way.
Visual Credits: Moms Not Lovin It Graphic from Stop Corporate Abuse; Not Lovin It Ronald McD visual via Funnyasduck.com, junk food hydra clip art stock.
Moms Not Lovin It: Sample Solutions and Related Reading
Marketing Tactics/Kids’ Nutrition By Amy Jussel
Need more specifics of what types of tactics McDonalds is using that moms would like to callout with GIMME A BREAK loudly?
Corporate Accountability International offers a 52pp pdf Slowing Down Fast Food: A Policy Guide for Healthier Kids and Families, more resources at CAI: MomsNotLovinIt.org…
The choices for what we consume in both mind and body should be ours alone, not served up in ambient surround sound with covert undermining of parental authority and kids health and wellness. Not Lovin It McDs…