UK Magazine Junk Food Advertisements

Junk food advertisement’s the
cause of the UK’s obesity
The possibilities are endless
The argument in question is that regarding the
cause of today’s obesity levels in the UK, but
there are a number of potential sources to this
social downfall. Factors like lack of physical
activity, genetics, medical conditions and an
obvious factor being a poor diet (Wyatt,
Winters and Dubbert, 2006). A poor diet
seems to be the common cause of obesity,
however the core argument is whether
advertisements provoke these poor diets,
consequently resulting in obesity.
It is considered by Chou, Rashad and
Grossman (2008), Andreyeva, Kelly and Harris
(2011) and Zimmerman and Bell (2010) to
name a few trustworthy sources of many- that
television advertisements have little or no
influence on consumers’ body weight as they
believe independent factors to be the cause;
like insecurity for instance. On the other hand
however, it is found that a third of parents
around the world (Children's Obesity - UK June 2010) believe TV advertisements to be
partially responsible for children’s obesity
levels and other reliable sources are certain
that those without influence of advertisements
are less likely to be overweight or obese
(Swinburn and Shelly, 2008; Jenkin, Wilson
and Hermanson, 2008).
Fast food advertising rapidly rising obesity
Advertising agencies prove influential in relation to the
rising levels of obesity (Jenkin, Wilson and Hermanson,
2008), as excessive consumption of junk food is a prime
cause of obesity (Garbutt, 2013), however, arguably
inappropriate encouragement from agencies is evident
with advertisements from fast food chains like McDonalds
and KFC etc. which manipulate both the mature and
younger generation into gaining interest in fast food with
little nutritional value. Fast food chain ‘McDonald’s’ is a
prime example of those encouraging the consumption of
junk food, with their advertisements appearing
everywhere from billboards to the television, which is to
be expected with the company having an advertising
budget of $988 million (Hume, 2014). McDonalds reach
out to a variety of demographics (Marketing at
McDonalds, 2015), but an attempt to entice younger
generations is evident in the form of the ‘Happy Meal’
deal which comes with a toy. Providing children with a toy
could be considered as a devious ploy in gaining their
attention and desire (Anderson, Manoogian and Reznick,
1976), enforcing brand image into the child’s memory
(Scott, 1976) and somewhat encouraging them to
associate McDonalds with being a happy and fun place
to be. This manipulation might be considered
inappropriate, as children are being somewhat
conditioned to view McDonalds’ food as both a necessity
and a delicacy. The lack of nutritional value in food from
manipulating restaurants like such is that contributing to
the growth in obesity throughout the UK, therefore
advertising from these fast food restaurants seems to be
unnecessary and disadvantageous, especially regarding
children of today as it is found by Jenkin, Wilson and
Hermanson (2008) that those under the age of 12 years
old exposed to junk food advertisements, are more likely
to desire advertised foods in comparison to those
who are not.
Obesity levels in the UK are higher than anywhere in western
Where are we going wrong?
There’s a lot more to it than burgers and fries…
Although many sources believe UK fast food advertisements to be highly influential in regards to obesity
levels, it is found by Andreyeva, Kelly and Harris (2011) and Zimmerman and Bell (2010) that TV
advertisements have little relation in regards to obesity and BMI as it is lack of physical activity and other
environmental and social factors that play a huge part in growing obesity statistics, however, they do not
rule out the influence of fast food advertisements. Although this source doubts influence from fast food
advertisements, belief is however evident that cereal advertisements are substantially influential, with
less nutritional cereal being more commonly advertised in comparison to cereals full of fibre and vitamins
etc. (Boyland et al., 2011). Boyland et al., (2011) outlines the significant impact sugary cereal
advertisements have on young demographic and the frequency in which these ads appear on TV. It is
found by Shelnutt (2015) that a lot of children and teenagers tend to skip breakfast as they do not enjoy
typical breakfast foods, so cereals high in sugar that are advertised in a typical colourful and exciting
manor will appeal to these markets. Exposing these generations to food like this will inevitably increase
chances of rising obesity levels in the UK, as the marketing ploy offers the demographic excitement to
the breakfast part of their day, therefore appealing to the market.
Exploitation of potential
The reach in which advertising has is phenomenal (Kreshel, Lancaster and Toomey, 1985),
therefore meaning advertising agencies have the potential to give the market as a whole
(especially children) an insight as to what other healthy eating options are out there by
placing much more emphasis on these products during ad breaks.
The Lib Dems in a recent effort to overcome their rival parties released a press release
claiming to ensure a ban is put in place on junk food advertisements before 9pm in an
attempt to protect the youth from such exposure (, 2015); this ploy from
the political party could be a good rule for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to
enforce on the entire UK advertising industry, as it is evident from findings that a significant
number of reliable sources believe advertising to play a huge part in high obesity levels, so
by disallowing junk food ads to be aired before 9pm, it at least decreases the chances of
younger demographic being exposed to such detrimental food.
Reference List
Anderson, R., Manoogian, S. and Reznick, J. (1976). The undermining and
enhancing of intrinsic motivation in preschool children. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 34(5), pp.915-922.
Andreyeva, T., Kelly, I. and Harris, J. (2011). Exposure to food advertising on
television: Associations with children's fast food and soft drink consumption and
obesity. Economics & Human Biology, 9(3), pp.221-233.
Boseley, S. (2014). UK among worst in western Europe for level of overweight and
obese people. [online] the Guardian. Available at:
[Accessed 13 Apr. 2015].
Boyland, E., Harrold, J., Kirkham, T. and Halford, J. (2011). The extent of food
advertising to children on UK television in 2008. Int J Pediatr Obes, 6(5-6), pp.455461., (2015). Lib Dem manifesto promises ban on pre-9pm junk food
ads and limits to e-cig marketing. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Apr. 2015].
Children's Obesity - UK - June 2010 (2015). Tackling Child Obesity. [online]
Available at: [Accessed 15 Apr. 2015].
Chou, S., Rashad, I. and Grossman, M. (2008). Fast‐Food Restaurant Advertising on
Television and Its Influence on Childhood Obesity. The Journal of Law and
Economics, 51(4), pp.599-618.
Garbutt, C. (2013). Obesity and Fast Food. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Apr.
Harris, J., Bargh, J. and Brownell, K. (2009). Priming effects of television food
advertising on eating behavior. Health Psychology, 28(4), pp.404-413.
Hume, S. (2014). McDonald's spent more than $988 million on advertising in 2013.
[online] The Christian Science Monitor. Available at: [Accessed 14 Apr. 2015].
Jenkin, G., Wilson, N. and Hermanson, N. (2008). Identifying ‘unhealthy’ food
advertising on television: a case study applying the UK Nutrient Profile model. Public
Health Nutrition, 12(05), p.614.
Kreshel, P., Lancaster, K. and Toomey, M. (1985). How Leading Advertising
Agencies Perceive Effective Reach and Frequency. Journal of Advertising, 14(3),
Marketing at Mcdonalds. (2015). [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Apr. 2015].
Marie et al. Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in
children and adults during 1980–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden
of Disease Study 2013. The Lancet, 384(9945), pp.766-781.
Scott, C. (1976). The Effects of Trial and Incentives on Repeat Purchase Behavior.
Journal of Marketing Research, 13(3), p.263.
SF Gate, (2015). What Attracts Kids to Fast Food?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Apr.
Shelnutt, R. (2015). FCS8901/FY1153: Raising Healthy Children: Begin With
Breakfast. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Apr. 2015].
Swinburn, B. and Shelly, A. (2008). Effects of TV time and other sedentary pursuits.
Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord, 32, pp.S132-S136.
Wyatt, S., Winters, K. and Dubbert, P. (2006). Overweight and Obesity: Prevalence,
Consequences, and Causes of a Growing Public Health Problem. The American
Journal of the Medical Sciences, 331(4), pp.166-174.
Zimmerman, F. and Bell, J. (2010). Associations of Television Content Type and
Obesity in Children. Am J Public Health, 100(2), pp.334-340.