Fast food advertising

Fast food advertising

Fast food advertising is the promotion of fast food products and ventures through a variety of media. Fast food advertising campaigns are not as highly regulated as some other products, such as those imposed on alcohol advertising, but there are often public calls for their promotion to be minimized.

Campaign intentions

Advertising campaigns for fast food restaurants have changed in their intent over time. Many modern campaigns stress the availability of healthy options after years of criticism for the harmful effects of a fast food diet. The rise in awareness of healthy eating and obesity has negatively impacted the business of these establishments, and their marketing campaigns have attempted to rectify this. [cite news|last=Choueka|first=Elliott|title=Big Mac fights back|url=|work=BBC News|date=2005-07-08|accessdate=2006-10-09]

Target audience

Some fast food chains target their advertising at children - an important market for them. McDonald's Happy Meals are one example, which includes a toy often tied in with a newly-released children's film. Ronald McDonald, first introduced in 1963 is a clown-like advertising mascot designed to appeal to young children. From 1996, Disney was an exclusive partner with McDonald's, linking their products together. They announced the end of this deal in May 2006, with some reports saying that Disney was worried about childhood obesity. [cite news|title=Disney and McDonald's deal ended|url=|date=2005-05-10|accessdate=2006-10-09|publisher=Norwich Union] [cite news|last=Noe|first=Eric|title=Did Childhood-Obesity Worries Kill Disney-McDonald's Pact?|url=|work=ABC News|date=2006-05-08|accessdate=2006-10-09] McDonald's has since been in talks with rival animation studios. [cite news|title=Report: McDonald's may work with other studios after Disney|url=|date=2005-07-06|accessdate=2006-10-09|work=CNN Money]

More recently, chains like Carl's Jr. and Burger King (see Burger King advertising) have directed advertising towards a different demographic – young teenage and college-age men – with trendy, often sexualised, imagery and messages that target men's supposed desire for large, meat-filled burgers and rich, satisfying food. In 2005, for example, Carl's Jr. debuted a controversial ad featuring a bikini-clad Paris Hilton writhing sensuously on an expensive Bentley luxury car while enjoying a large burger. The ad provoked outrage from a number of groups, but Carl's Jr. sales climbed impressively. [cite news|last=Hein|first=Kenneth|title=Paris Ad for Carl's Jr. Too Hot for TV|url=|date=2005-04-25|accessdate=2006-10-09|work=Adweek]

Methods of advertising

Common methods of advertising include:
*Television commercial campaigns
*Print media campaigns
*Billboard campaigns
*Event Sponsorship (sporting events and others)
*Product placement in films and television programs
*Various forms of branding, including clothing
*Direction signs and posters, telling people how far the restaurant is

In February 2005 McDonald's used a viral marketing campaign during Super Bowl XXXIX - the Lincoln Fry. Two Pizza Hut marketing ploys have involved spaceflight. In 2001 they were the first to deliver pizzas to outer space when their vacuum-sealed food arrived at the International Space Station, [cite news|title=Pizza Hut Celebrates Successful Delivery to Space|url=|date=2001-05-22|accessdate=2006-10-09|] just a year after agreeing a deal to have a 30-foot Pizza Hut logo placed on the side of an unmanned rocket. [cite news|title=Pizza Hut Puts Pie in the Sky with Rocket Logo|url=|date=1999-09-30|accessdate=2006-10-09|]

Regulation and criticism

One of the main areas of regulation facing fast food companies is the advertising of "junk food" to children. In the United Kingdom, the Children's Food Bill is intended to highly regulate the advertising of such food aimed at children, [cite web|url=|title=Children's Food Bill|accessdate=2006-10-09|date=2004-05-18|publisher=British House of Commons] and many other countries are looking to introduce strict limitations on fast food advertising. Talks between the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the fast food companies were initiated to work together in an effort to improve children's diets, though Burger King withdrew from the discussions. [cite news|last=Leake|first=Jonathan|title=Burger King opts out of health food drive|url=,,2087-1817439,00.html|date=2005-10-09|accessdate=2006-10-09|publisher=The Sunday Times]

Some organisations have called for the watershed to apply to various unhealthy foodstuffs, including fast food. In June 2006, the FSA called for laws to prevent such food from being advertised on television before 9pm. They also called for the disassociation of television and film characters from fast food and stopping celebrities from appearing in such advertisements. [cite news|last=Derbyshire|first=David|title=Ban all junk food ads before 9pm, says watchdog|url=|date=2006-06-15|accessdate=2006-10-09|] The impact of such campaigns is often denied by the fast food companies and the television networks that carry their advertisements. [cite web|url=|title=TVNZ’s defence of fast-food advertising leaves foul taste|accessdate=2006-10-09|last=Kedgley|first=Sue|date=2003-03-06|publisher=Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand] Some networks have also said that tighter regulations would reduce advertising income and that would have a negative impact on the quality of children's programming. [cite web|url=|title=The Growth of Obesity|accessdate=2006-10-09|last=Simmonds|first=Malcolm|year=2006|month=March|publisher=Alternative HealthZine] In Sweden all advertising aimed at the under-12s is banned, including fast food adverts.

Faced with stricter television, radio and print regulation, many fast food companies have started making use of Internet advertising to reach their customers. [cite news|author=Bobbie Johnson|coauthors=Owen Gibson|title=Internet used to push fast food to children, say campaigners|url=,,1740360,00.html|work=Guardian Unlimited|date=2006-03-27|accessdate=2006-10-09]

The accuracy of the images of food used by the fast food companies is regularly called into question. The actual product is often described as being of poorer quality to that represented in the image.

On 3 June 2004 KFC withdrew American television commercials claiming that "fried chicken can, in fact, be part of a healthy diet" after reaching a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. [cite news|last=Bergren|first=Scott|title=KFC Responds to FTC Resolution of Advertising Inquiry|url=|date=2004-06-03|accessdate=2006-10-09]

Fast food advertising is often complained about to advertising authorities, with members of the public most usually claiming that the wording is misleading. Not all the complaints are upheld. For example, between 11 September 2002 and 24 March 2004 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK investigated complaints about six McDonald's advertisements, with two of them being upheld. The ASA used one of the upheld complaints as a case study. [cite news|title=End of story for one fast food ad|url=|publisher=Advertising Standards Authority|accessdate=2006-10-09]

In 2006 the European Union passed a new law regarding the labelling of foods - any food with a nutritional claim (such as "low fat") must also highlight that it is high in something else (such as "high salt") if that is the case. While fast food is often not given a traditional label, this may have an impact on advertising. [cite news|title=Tight controls on food labelling|url=|work=BBC News|date=2006-05-16|accessdate=2006-10-09]

In November 2006, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) announced that it would ban television adverts for junk food before, during and after television programming aimed at under-16s in the United Kingdom. [cite news|title=Junk food ad crackdown announced|url=|work=BBC News|date=2006-11-17|accessdate=2006-11-17] These regulations were originally outlined in a proposal earlier in the year. [cite news|title=Junk food ads to be banned from kids' TV|url=|work=Daily Mail|date=2006-03-27|accessdate=2006-11-17] This move has been criticized on both ends of the scale; while the Food and Drink Federation labelled the ban "over the top", others have said the restrictions do not go far enough (particularly due to the fact that soap operas would be exempt from the ban). [cite news|title=Reactions in quotes: ad ban|url=|work=BBC News|date=2006-11-17|accessdate=2006-11-17] On 1 April 2007, junk food advertisements were banned from programmes aimed at four to nine-year-olds.cite news|title=Junk food ad ban comes into force|url=|work=BBC News|date=2007-04-01|accessdate=2007-04-02] Such adverts broadcast during programmes "aimed at, or which would appeal to," ten to fifteen-year-olds will continue to be phased out over the coming months, [cite news|title=Junk food ad ban plans laid out|url=|work=BBC News|date=2007-02-22|accessdate=2007-04-02] with a full ban coming into effect on 1 January 2009.



Several international fast food companies have sponsored sporting events, teams and leagues. McDonald's is one of the largest sponsors, having affiliations with the NHL, Olympic Games, and the FIFA World Cup. [cite web|url=|title=McDonald's :: About Us :: Sports Sponsorships|accessdate=2006-10-09|publisher=McDonald's Canada] Several companies, including McDonald's, Burger King and Pizza Hut, have a history of sponsoring NASCAR teams.


Some fast food companies sponsor television programmes. Domino's Pizza have sponsored Sky One's screenings of "The Simpsons" in the UK for many years (But reported because of new regulation on advertising that the deal may end). In 2005 Pizza Hut sponsored the same program when it was shown on Channel 4 – the Sky/Domino's deal continued.

Famous campaigns

Famous campaigns include:
*I'm lovin' it (McDonald's)
*Taco Bell chihuahua (Taco Bell)
*Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. (McDonald's)
*Mac Tonight (McDonald's)
*We love to see you smile (McDonald's)
*Where's the beef? (Wendy's)
*Have it your way (Burger King)

ee also

* Burger King advertising
* The Burger King
* Burger King Kingdom
* McDonald's advertising
* McDonaldland
* Ronald McDonald


External links

*" [ Children's food choices, parents' understanding and influence, and the role of food promotions] " at Ofcom (UK)
*" [ Food advertising] " at Young Media Australia
*" [ Junk food ads to be banned from kids' TV] " at the Daily Mail, 27 March 2006 (UK)
*" [ TV fast food advertising ban rejected] " at the Sydney Morning Herald, 14 September 2005 (Australia)
*" [ Advertising budgets linked to fast food popularity] " at Norwich Union, 1 December 2005 (UK)

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