I worked as a cashier in a grocery store for over five years, where I was often witness to the familiar scene of children throwing a huge tantrum because mom would not let them buy their favourite breakfast cereal or snack.  I’m sure you’ve seen it – (or even experienced it yourself!) – the full-out meltdown in the grocery store aisle over Lucky Charms, Cheezies or Gummi Bears.  This scene usually ended with the mother giving in and throwing the item in their cart just to avoid the stares of other customers.

Kids Cereal Aisle

I remember being confident that by the time I became a parent, I would have my kids so well trained that they would never try that kind of thing with me.  I assumed that with my good influence on their eating habits, they would not have any desire for such garbage.  Don’t worry – I’m a little older and wiser now and I’m well aware that kids today are influenced by much more than their parents.

Starting at a very young age, kids are bombarded with marketing and advertising campaigns targeted specifically at them.  Obviously the large junk food companies know that deep down, most parents want to feed their kids healthy and nourishing foods as opposed to all the sugar and fat laden processed foods that line the grocery store shelves.  Therefore, instead of trying to convince the parents to buy this junk, they get the kids to do the begging and pleading and eventual convincing of their parents to buy it.  If you think about it, it’s a very strategic form of child labour!

How exactly do these companies get the kids on board?  By marketing their products like crazy in a way that is appealing to the easily influenced child.  Bright colours, fun characters, misleading nutritional information – these are just some of the tactics used to convince children that they really should be eating this junk food on a daily basis.  It’s awful, but it’s really hard to shield your children from this.  I could go on and on about the evils of advertising targeted at children,  but that is actually not the focus of this post (but for more information on a recent report in Ontario that urges the government to ban the marketing of junk food to kids you can go here).

What I really wanted to explore here is: What if Real Food was marketed with the same intensity as junk food?

Check this out.  The following advertisements were actually created by The Television Bureau of Canada as a creative way of trying to prove that traditional television advertising is still relevant.  They chose broccoli as an item that had never really been marketed before and was seen as a tough sell.  They aired these commercials for 5 weeks on conventional television and measured the sales of broccoli before and after the campaign.

Get this – after the ads aired, broccoli sales increased by 8%! I’m serious. This beat their goal of 3% for the campaign!  The thing that shocked me the most was that thirteen percent of consumers responded that they had purchased at least one more bunch of broccoli in their latest shopping trip as compared to the pre campaign period.  So besides proving their own point (that TV advertising is still relevant, despite the influx of PVR and NetFlix users), this campaign also proved that educating people about the benefits of Real Food can be successful in encouraging them to eat more Real Food.  Amazing.

I love broccoli


So what if we applied this to kids?  Obviously junk food like Oreos or Pringles are going to be more tasty to a kid than broccoli. They are specifically designed by food scientists to appeal to the taste buds in a chemically superior way.   That’s not the point.  What I’m trying to highlight here is the importance of educating our kids on the benefits of eating Real Foods such as broccoli, and that perhaps we need to be as aggressive about this as the junk food companies are being!  These particular broccoli ads are targeted at adults, but what if there was an ad campaign developed to market Real Food to kids, highlighting the awesome things that Real Food can do for them?  Kids should know that Real Food is going to keep them strong and healthy so that they have lots of energy, can do well at sports and have fun with their friends.  It’s one thing for a parent to try to tell this to their children (Okayyyyyy Mom, I knowwwww kale is good for me, blah, blah blah), but it’s another thing for them to see a fun and colourful commercial that makes broccoli (or kale, or apples) look cool and fun and delicious.  Am I crazy here?

I know, I know – the big question on everyone’s mind is “Who would pay for this?”  I’m thinking with childhood obesity rates on the rise, this might be a good investment for our government as a preventative healthcare measure.   What an innovative approach to help curb healthcare costs down the road related to the health implications of all the junk food kids are eating today.

What do you think?  I’m serious – I really want to hear other people’s opinion on this topic.  Is banning junk food ads the answer to this problem, or could a more innovative approach work?


P.S.  Looking for some strategies to help your kids avoid the negative influences of junk food advertising?  This article has some great tips.

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