Appearance vs Reality // James LeClercq

When I was young, I will admit that like every other kid in America, I would always beg and nag my parents into getting something that I wanted. Granted I wouldn’t always get what I had pleaded for, but like all children that didn’t stop me from trying. On the weekends, I would always walk up and down the grocery aisles searching for all the new food products I had recently learned about. Whenever I picked something out, I would always bring it back to my mom for approval. She would typically respond with, “How do you know about this?”

Grocery Store Meltdowns Convicing Parents to Get What They Want
Grocery Store Meltdowns Convicing Parents to Get What They Want

I would proceed in telling her that I learned about it from a commercial while watching SpongeBob. On average I would say I came home with about 50% of the foods I picked out, and to my mom’s defense it was probably in everyone’s best interest if every once in a while I got dang the box of cereal. But when I didn’t get what I wanted, it was always the same excuse, “Do you have any idea how horrible this is for you? Cookies for breakfast, are you kidding me James? No”.  This would always result in a huge meltdown in the cereal aisle, complaining that all I wanted was to be like SpongeBob! To children, getting the unhealthy food product is simply about resembling their childhood idol and has very little to do with the actual food inside. My typical choices of food ranged from Cookie Crisp and Captain Crunch to Pizza Bagels and Ego Chocolate Chip Waffles. In America today, children specifically are unaware and uniformed about the health risks of eating unhealthy junk food. The main reason behind this is the children’s lack of ability to understand what is and isn’t healthy. On top of that the manipulation of power from advertising companies directing their focus to the undeveloped minds of the youth.

A 1991 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that Joe the Camel, a cartoon character who advertises a tobacco product, was more widely recognized among young children than the Flintstones and Mickey Mouse.

A 1989 Camel Cigarette Company Advertisement with Joe the Camel
A 1989 Camel Cigarette Company Advertisement with Joe the Camel

Advertisements can be directed towards all different ages of people, but cartoons found in advertisements are almost always intended for children. It is hard to understand why cigarettes are permitted to be advertised in the first place; let alone using a personified camel to do so. In the advertisement photo above, a camel is seen at a baseball game with his friends having a good time. An adult looks at this and thinks, “Man I haven’t been to a baseball game in a while”, while a child is thinking about the “cool” camel. The tobacco company is doing exactly what it intended which is targeting the youth and attempting to make cigarettes “cool” and “fun”. The claim from the Journal of the American Medical Association had alleged that the campaign was targeting children rather than adults (vintageadbrowser). By focusing on children and distracting the health risks with a vibrantly colored camel, the company is achieving its goal. Adults are already either addicted to smoking or not smokers, so advertising to them would be a waste of funds; but recruiting the young is beneficial to the company in the long run. It is manipulation of power at its finest.

The advertising industry is very affective in manipulating the public and deceiving young children. It is an unfair advantage for the companies because they are old enough and mentally developed enough to make decisions on their own about what is healthy to consume and what is not healthy. Fast food companies marketing of unhealthy food to kids is deceptive and undermines parent’s efforts to raise healthy children. Cartoons and games are provided on a Happy Meal, which distracts the customers from the actual food they are eating, and by playing while eating the children are not focused on the issue of consuming unhealthy foods (“Parents Demand”).

A Typical Happy Meal Box Filled with Distractors Such as Cartoons and Games
A Typical Happy Meal Box Filled with Distractors Such as Cartoons and Games

In an article in The Hill, Michelle Obama urges businesses to not allow marketing of unhealthy food to kids by using cartoon characters; and Emily Goodin states, “The food industry spends $1.8 billion per year on marketing targeted to young people, according to a study from the Rudd Center at Yale University. Most of those ads are for unhealthy foods that are high in sugar, salt, fat and calories” (Goodin). The unhealthy and junk food industry focuses and attacks young people who don’t know any better, and intrigue them to want these items based off of animations and distracting cartoons. In a survey mentioned earlier, in 1991 there was a study showing that Joe Camel was recognized more than the Flintstones and Mickey Mouse, alleging that the campaign was targeted at kids (vintageadbrowser). The overwhelming number of these statistics is proof that there needs to be governmental intervention in the advertising world. These children are being brainwashed at such a young and innocent age, think about what our world will become if we continue to allow this manipulation and corruption to occur. 

Television Advertising Brainwashing the Youth at such a Young Age
Television Advertising Brainwashing the Youth at such a Young Age

Fast food companies have too much power in the advertising world, and in turn it is directly affecting children’s health. These large business companies are focusing on young children at such a young age, and taking advantage of their power to turn the children against their parents. While the companies are not physically forcing these children to buy their products, they have instilled a set of values that only the children can relate with. Children, in turn, force and beg their parents to go and buy the products for them. The children are not aware of the health risks that come along with consumption of the product because their brains are continuing to develop and can only grasps certain elements. For example, the funny, goofy clown that dances around the television screen is all they see next to the brand name McDonalds. Although right now it may not seem like a big problem because they are just kids and “will probably grow out of it”, these manipulated children are the faces of our countries future. They are the recipients of corporate greed and cannot escape the inevitable media strangle hold that is put on them today. It is our responsibility to protect the younger generation, and without the intervention of our government we, as a nation, will fail.

Works Cited

Goodin, Emily. “Michelle Obama Targets Cartoon Characters in Junk Food Ads. “The Hill., 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2014. <;.

“Parents Demand Cartoon Heroes Banned from Junk Food Ads.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers, 21 Aug. 2007. Web. 5 Feb. 2014. <;.

 Talukder, Gargi. “Decision-making Is Still a Work in Progress for Teenagers.” Brain Connection RSS., 20 Mar. 2013. Web. 8 Feb. 2014. <;.

“Vintage Joe Camel Ads.” Vintage Ad Browser. Web. 9 Feb. 2014 <;.


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