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Junk Food Marketing Makes Big Moves in Developing Countries

KFC TV commercials that have aired in China over the last few years reveal a remarkably wide range of marketing techniques. In the ads, humor, irony, playfulness, and sentimentality present the restaurant’s quick-serve food as something that can help families bond, nourish athletes, entertain children, and even make teenagers cooler. Overall, the ads associate KFC with a modern lifestyle, suggesting (implicitly of course) that the Chinese can get their piece of middle class affluence–along with a full belly–for a reasonably low price. Read more

Thinking Beyond the Clown

When Bozo the Clown went off air in 1963, no one would have guessed the small-town television character would soon become the most famous clown in the world. But McDonald’s turned Bozo into Ronald McDonald, and today he’s recognized by more than 90 percent of schoolchildren in the United States. Read more

Mr. Zee’s Apple Factory: A Children’s Story about Processed Food

Back in the spring of 2011, Slate magazine decided to “crowd-source” the problem of childhood obesity by asking readers to submit their own solutions to this difficult problem. I blog daily about children and food on The Lunch Tray and over the years I’ve written literally thousands of words about childhood obesity and poor nutrition. But until I sat down to write my own entry for the Slate contest, I’d never really asked myself what I personally would do to improve the status quo. Read more

Super Bowl “Farmers” Ad: Heartfelt and Misleading

I grew up in a small town, population 15000 if you counted every cow in the valley. Every morning I’d hear my dad walk in the kitchen, pour his first cup of coffee and turn on the radio. Paul Harvey’s voice wafted into my bedroom regularly, and along with that smell of fresh brewed Folgers, became a thread in the fabric of my childhood. I didn’t know anything about Paul Harvey’s politics, but I loved the way he owned a pregnant pause.

On Sunday, Harvey’s voice was featured on a Super Bowl ad for Dodge Ram trucks featuring imagery of farmers. The audio was condensed from a 1978 speech Harvey made to the Future Farmers of America. I grew up in a rural town, my dad was born on a farm, and he and my mom opened a buffalo ranch when he retired from his career as a university professor. About the time my parents returned to a life on the land, I started working for FoodHub, a project of the nonprofit Ecotrust, which is a platform dedicated to connecting small and medium farmers with chefs, schools and other wholesale food buyers in their area. As a food system reformer and marketing professional, I had a visceral reaction to the ad.  Read more

McDonald’s Now Using Goats to Exploit Children

To call McDonald’s latest advertising campaign aimed at children cynical doesn’t give enough credit to the fast food giant and its ad agency, Leo Burnett. The company says the new series of ads starting this month is part of McDonald’s “nutrition commitment to promote nutrition and/or active lifestyle messages in 100 percent of its national communications to kids.”

How will the purveyor of Big Macs, fries and Coke accomplish this lofty goal? Perhaps by explaining that McDonald’s is an occasional treat? Or that sharing home-cooked meals is one of the best ways for families to ensure good eating habits? Perhaps McDonald’s could educate kids about the federal MyPlate recommendations to make half your meal fruits and vegetables?

Not even close. McDonald’s idea of nutrition education is simple: just eat at McDonald’s. Read more

Processed Food Industry: Eating Fruits and Vegetables Bad for the Economy

An effort to get American children to eat more fruits and vegetables should, even in hyper-polarized Washington, be a no-brainer.  Last week, Congress declared pizza sauce to be a vegetable in school lunches.  Now, major food manufacturers are escalating their attacks against healthy food calling proposed food marketing guidelines “job killers” that will devastate the American economy.   Read more

Farmers Markets: Transparency is Our Model

On October 15th, the trade publication The Packer reported on an issue of growing concern for farmers market vendors and shoppers: grocery chains are copy-catting farmers markets by using “farmers market” signs outside of their stores. The Wall Street Journal had previously reported on the issue, including retailers that use the term “farmers market” in their name, like Sprouts Farmers Market and Sunflower Farmers Market. Farmers in Washington State interviewed about the phenomenon seemed dismayed that retail chains “want to attract people and give the illusion that there are all these small farmers there.”

Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public relations for the Produce Marketing Association defended the sale of produce at grocery chains under the name “farmers market” as a “legitimate marketing tactic.” Aside from military connotations, ‘tactics’ are generally defined as “isolated actions or events that take advantage of opportunities offered by the gaps within a given strategic system.” The Farmers Market Coalition opposes marketing tactics that cloud the truth. Taking advantage of the public by leveraging the term out of context is not only misleading, but, I believe, illustrates an unfortunate failure of creativity. Read more