There were lots of great talks, but one I sat in on that was particularly interesting was on marketing to children. The conversation got really interesting when the Food and Beverage representatives and Advertising Agency members became defensive over the idea that we might need better regulations on advertising to children because it is manipulative and children don't have the ability to understand this.
Currently we have policies in place under the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. This was initiated a number of years ago by actual food and beverage companies that offered to collaborate with the government on a way to control the kinds of foods advertised to children on television. The idea was that there would be a reduction the in amount of advertising towards children and more “good for you” foods would be advertised over “junk food”.The only problem is that the methods they are using to choose what foods are “good for you” foods is so lax that foods like Dunk-a-Roos and Lucky Charms still make the cut. Tell me....since when do food coloring marshmallows and icing sugar constitute “good for you” foods?
The Food and Beverage members and advertising agency representatives insist we don't give children enough credit for their ability to be informed. I argue that advertising is still, at its core, manipulative (after all they are trying to make you buy their product) and such advertising is unfair to individuals that don't have fully developed thinking processes to understand this. Take this video for instance. It gives a perfect example of how easily kids can be manipulated. These children can be convinced to pick a rock over food simply by putting stickers of their favourite cartoons on them.
People will argue that regulations take away choice, I say a lack of regulations allow companies to run rampant and create an environment where sugary cereals, sweetened beverages and processed foods are the norm and preferred over whole foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. We need to work towards a world where whole foods are the preferred and the norm. Living in a world where they are shadowed by larger processed food advertising makes this pretty difficult.