Archive | November, 2012

Are food marketers responsible for obesity?

29 Nov

Issue

 

With child obesity in Canada exceeding 30%, due to our high intake of salt and sugar there is a higher risk of diabetes and high blood pressure. The related health problems cost society and government in health care costs. This has led to suggestions that junk food should be taxed, or banned (large drink, trans-fats).

 

 

Consumer Side Debate

 

Why do children love fast food? Well why not; it tastes great, looks appealing, usually comes with a toy, and if the child is lucky there is a “play area” inside of the establishment to keep them entertained. Tie this in with focused advertising, limited healthy options and ease of access and you start to see why our kids today are growing up unhealthy, overweight and unaware of the health risks.

 

Junk food is everywhere from fast food restaurants, school cafeterias and grocery stores all the way to convenience stores and vending machines. Part of the problem is this ease of access. Stocking school cafeterias with chips, cookies, pizza’s, fries etc. leaves little room for healthier options such as salads, sandwiches, fruits and nuts. And even if healthier options are made available, why would a child choose it? Companies spend millions of dollars on advertising products to children.

 

The use fictitious characters to sell the product (Ronald McDonald, The Trix Rabbit), products that tie confectionaries into the product (Lucky Charms & marshmallows), the placement of advertisements on children television stations (YTV) and associating the product with children in the ad (Kids drinking Sunny Delight) are just a few tactics harnessed by these companies. In addition, a report in the United States by the Federal Trade Commission estimated that in 2006, 10 restaurant chains spent over $350 million on kid’s meal toys. To put this into perspective, that’s over 1.2 billion kid’s meals with toys. A report by the Institute of Medicine cited this tactic as “an environment that puts children’s health at risk.” Recent studies also show that kids gain an increased appetite when they see a recognized, junk food companies’ logo. (Brice, 2012) What’s more compelling is that these same children tie emotions of satisfaction and happiness to these brands, just through the visual impact of the logo; no food involved.(Ipaktchian, 2011) It is this strong brand recognition cycle – product to company, company to child, child to product,  that creates protest from parents.

 

 

Kids don’t know the calorie count, sodium intake and fat content of junk food. Evidence suggests that fast food contributes to increased calorie intake and obesity risks in children. (Fast Food Linked To Child Obesity, 2009) Research shows children gaining up to  approximately 6 lbs. per year and up to 60 lbs. in 10 years, which is extremely significant for children between the ages of 5 – 15 as there average height (5 ft.) becomes disproportionate to their weight. (Pakhare, 2011) Another study shows that kids who live in a country with strong competitive food laws gained less weight than those in countries with little or no restrictions; and that the law restricted children reached a healthier weight by the eighth grade in comparison to children who do not have government restrictions. (Sifferlin, 2012)

 

Although it might be modest to imply that the law is the only factor that directly cause kids to live healthier lives, many public-health officials and “obesity experts” still support the ban of junk food from schools; even when the distributors and school districts who make a profit off this food are opposing the thought. (Sifferlin, 2012) Policy-makers are taking action to protect children from fast-food trends which include limiting soft drink/ snacking food sales in schools and restraining food advertising aimed at children. (Fast Food Linked To Child Obesity, 2009) Even with these boundaries in place, the fact is that the percentage of children eating unhealthy food is higher than the percentage of children eating healthy food.

 

 

Company Side Debate

 

On the other hand, the corporate responses on children’s obesity differ quite significantly from the consumers’ point of view. In short it is ultimately the consumers responsibility to be aware of what they put in their bodies and corporations should not be scapegoats. Secondly, there are many other external factors that attribute to obesity and consumers need to focus on resolving these issues.

 

As Coca-Cola puts it, “Coca-Cola and other food and beverage companies are viewed by some as major contributors to the problem (obesity), but real solutions are more complex than selecting targets for blame. As the world’s largest beverage company, we need to become a recognized leader, working in collaboration with other stakeholders, to identify and implement workable solutions that help people achieve more active, healthy lifestyles.” And Coca-Cola has; starting with the promotion and support of nutrition education and physical activity programs in addition to the development of educational tools and programs aimed at the importance of energy balance in active, healthy lifestyles. Coca-Cola isn’t the only company makes changes either.(Coca Cola Company, 2012)

 

 

Kraft foods announced that it would be voluntarily reducing sodium in its food by 10% in 2012 while Mars is developing its own front of package labels; placing calorie information on the front of its candy. Pepsi Co. also announced a voluntary policy to stop the sales of full-sugar soft drinks in primary and secondary schools worldwide by 2012; these all being examples of how companies are making changes in lieu of the public’s responses.(Nestle, 2010)

 

Additionally, it must also be made clear that there are numerous other factors that affect a child’s weight. For example, elementary and high schools are continually decreasing physical activities for children. In the past, school boards required children to exercise in excess of 60 minutes a day however today, due to budget cuts school boards encourage anywhere from 30 to 0 minutes of physical activity per day. (Sifferlin, 2012) Corporations cannot be responsible for lack of physical activity among children, and are not responsible for encouraging it.  If the government has no interest in encouraging physical activity among children, then why should a corporation?

These companies are already responsible for disclosing nutritional information about their products according to the Food and Drugs Act in Canada.  Food packaging must declare nutritional facts about the product, such as fat content and calories. Food packaging and labelling are also subject to inspection by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This visibility is just another way corporations

act in the best interest of the public, ensuring people are “informed” of healthy choices.

 

Recommendations

 

Food marketers cannot be held responsible for a child’s personal choice, misuse and abuse of products as this responsibility lies in the hands of the child’s parents. Kids have become obese not just because of junk food, but several other factors including lack of physical activity, poor diet, and poor information/decisions.

 

Parents should not be looking to food makers and marketers for advice on nutrition and healthy lifestyle. Conversely, food makers and marketers should not be responsible for supporting and encouraging healthy lifestyles of their consumers. Seeking out healthy living and nutritional advice from companies such as McDonalds is like a consumer seeking sobriety advice from Labatt’s.

 

Action has already been taken by companies with voluntary steps to reduce sodium and fat content in their products, as well as meeting government regulations regarding the display of nutritional information and exceeding them by making nutritional information as visible as possible. Additionally, fast food companies such as McDonalds have begun offering healthy alternatives on their menus. The options are available; it is up to the Parent to make the right choice for their child.

 

Supplementary steps can be taken by the government to help resolve the issue however the answer is not simply through heavy handed regulations. For example, New York has banned large sodas in restaurants, citing that the high sugar content leads to obesity and increased health care. However, soda is still available in smaller quantities in restaurants and in larger quantities at grocery stores. Regardless of what is imposed, people will find a way around it. Taxes, bans, and regulations are not the answer in the fight against childhood obesity, educated, responsible parents who know what healthy choices are and how to make them are what will have a real effect on the future of children.

 

The government needs to also encourage more participation in physical activities and teach healthy choice decision making to children. Investments made in these programs will help “raise the bar” in schools, encouraging increased levels of physical activities, classes teaching children about nutrition and how to make healthy eating decisions. By the time these children grown to adults, they will have a foundation of nutritional knowledge that will help them make the right choices for their children. In the end, childhood obesity circles back to one main point: that it is in the hands of the parents to ensure and instill the right information to help grow a healthy child.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

(2012). Retrieved from Coca Cola Company: http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/citizenship/challenges_opportunities.html

 

Brice, M. (2012, September 25). “I’m Lovin’ It”: Fast-Food Logos ‘Imprinted’ in Children’s Brains, Study Says. Retrieved from Medical Daily: http://www.medicaldaily.com/articles/12318/20120925/fast-food-logos-imprinted-childrens-brains.htm#pyVPDGtW11Gz4pgJ.99

 

Fast Food Linked To Child Obesity. (2009, February 11). Retrieved from CBS News: http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-204_162-591325.html

 

Ipaktchian, S. (2011, December). Study looks at fast-food restaurant response to first limits on free toys with kids’ meals. Retrieved from Standford School of Medicine: http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2011/december/fast-food.html

 

Nestle, M. (2010, March 18). What are food companies doing about childhood obesity? Retrieved from Food Politics: http://www.foodpolitics.com/2010/03/what-are-food-companies-doing-about-childhood-obesity-2/

 

Pakhare, J. (2011). Fast Food and Obesity in Children. Retrieved from Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/fast-food-and-obesity-in-children.html

 

Sifferlin, A. (2012, August 13). Can Laws Against Junk Food in Schools Rein In Child Obesity? Retrieved from Time Healthland : http://healthland.time.com/2012/08/13/can-laws-against-junk-food-in-school-rein-in-child-obesity/#ixzz28lpqPeyK

 

 

 

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5. Piracy: There is no such thing as an original idea so copyrights should be abolished

29 Nov

Downloading and sharing content is okay:

Anyone who has grown up in my generation, of the internet age, has downloaded illegal content for free. It is basically a fact of life. It is available, it is free, and everyone does it with basically no punishment. Canadian law is murky on if it is even illegal for one to download music (the latest copyright act “basically” says that you can download music, just uploading it to share is the illegal aspect). There is no such thing as an original idea anymore. All copyright laws do is stifle innovation of products. Almost every single major idea has been “innovated” or copied in some form, and has lead to better quality and technology for consumers. Software is also a major issue. The fact that software companies charge such high and uncompetitive rates for their software is why people have found ways to upload and download them for free. There are risks of downloading, such as viruses and spyware, so it does take a lot of thought as to do it or not. Since Canadian laws basically allow the downloading of copyrighted content, there should not be anything resembling a moral dilemma.

Copyright infringement is wrong:

We are in business. We work hard day after day for years on end. Some will work hard all their lives with nothing to show for it. Others will take major risks, financial, personal, to try and make it big. Some will fail and others will succeed. Finally after all the years of hard work, all the risks, you come up with a million dollar idea. All the hard work has paid off. Then someone decides that they like your idea and innovation, and will just copy it and reap the benefits of your hard work. Not only time has been invested, but significant amounts of capital as well to make the projects work. As a society, we do not believe it is right for an individual to walk into a store and take a product off the shelf without paying for it. Society believes that the product is the property of the business owner as they have invested time and money into making that product available for sale. However society has taken the view that if it’s available online, it is not stealing. Why are copyrighted files on the internet, any different from a product sitting on a store shelf?

My Stance:

Stealing is stealing. There is absolutely no difference between downloading a copyrighted piece of data such as software, and walking into a store and grabbing a product of the shelf and walking out with it. Just because digital copyright laws in Canada have been slow to adapt to changes and technology, and don’t provide harsh (or any) punishments for downloading copyrighted content, does not mean it is okay. If the law did not provide consequences for murder, it would still be wrong. Canadian law needs to adjust and not only clarify the laws, but make punishments a realistic deterrent.

 

4. Media Trends: Is Traditional Media Dead? Has social media lost its cool?

29 Nov

Traditional Media is Dead:

Traditional media is on the decline. Newspapers are entering bankruptcy, or are coming very close to bankruptcy.  The formats are old and slow and do not keep up with technology. Newspapers have been slow to adapt to online formats. The advent of the PVR has now made it possible for viewers to skip through commercials, making television advertisements highly ineffective. Digital media formats lead to many using iPods and other devices while they are driving instead of tuning into radio stations, lowering the effectiveness of radio advertisements. Magazines are dying off as content it is months behind the information available on the internet.

Social Media has lost its cool:

A friend of mine, Drago Adams ofAdamAdgroup stated “It seems the only people getting rich off of social media, are the people putting on seminars that “teach” people, how to get rich off of social media”. Many organizations believed social media was the new format to invest in, as well as believing the cost are low. However, many companies are disengaging from social media, unable to keep their pages under control from consumer complaints and other issues which clog social media sites. As well, miss timed, miss interrupted postings have come back to bite several retailers with negative publicity. Many use social media to connect with their friends and other users, not to look and click on advertisements. Major companies pulling out of the social media universe is a sign that social media is not as cool as it once was.

My stance:

Traditional media is alive and well, and not as dead as some would like to make it seem. Social Media may not be the one and only format some thought it would be, but it is an effective tool as well. Organizations must understand that traditional and social media formats are both needed to compete in today’s world. For example, a successful newspaper needs not only a traditional hardcopy of the newspaper, but a twitter page for constant updates, a website that is constantly updated, and a Facebook page to gage what is important to readers. All media formats must be used together efficiently as a total media package. The formats should not be considered as completely separate forms of media, but as complementary parts of an overall media strategy.

3. Privacy: Why worry? You can trust GOOGLE and other to do no harm

29 Nov

Pro corporations:
Major corporations such as Google, have an invested interest in keeping your personal information safe. Yes, they collect information to better know their customers, and are able to provide better personalized service with this data. Corporations who have suffered major breaches of security can suffer severe consequences, as customers will no longer do business with that corporation. In some cases, corporations could be so severely impacted they would be forced into bankruptcy. The results are serious, so major corporations are not going to play it fast and loose with your personal information. It would be bad business for them to do so. The PPEDA is an act in Canada which protects private information collected by organizations, and tasks organizations with only using this information for reasonable purposes. Google has even taken the step to clarify its user agreement with consumers so they can have a better understanding of what they are agreeing too.
Antitrust in privacy:
Just from the process of daily business, corporations are going to gather stacks of data on customers, this is a given. However, many consumers are essentially “tricked” into donating their private information to corporations through long winded, complicated, legal agreements. Consumers simply do not have the time, or the education to interpret the privacy agreements they are agreeing to when they use G-mail, Face book, or Flickr. The agreements are intentionally designed in the way described above to confuse users into giving up their data. As the Facebook IPO proves, Facebook and other social media sights sell all sorts of information about users to third parties, which is agreed upon unknowingly in the user contract. Users upload information and files such as photos intending to share them with friends, but unknowingly all this information can be used or sold by the social media site. The law in Canada has been slow to adapt, and the PPEDA still puts a heavy emphasis on the corporation to be responsible and police itself with consumer information.
My Stance:
Corporations have a lot on the line when it comes to customer privacy and protecting consumer information, however lax laws put too much onus on corporations to police themselves when it comes to customer privacy. Acts need to be strengthen to require corporations to make user agreements understandable for the common consumer, as well as provide harsh penalties for misuse of sensitive data. Consumers also must act out of self interest and protect their data, and not be so willing to “donate” their data to corporations. Many users simply put too much trust in corporations such as Facebook, Google, and Drop Box to do no wrong with their data, when it is obviously not the case.

#2 Corporate Citizenship: Cause Marketing is a Shame

29 Nov

Pro Cause Marketing:

Many charities depend on corporate donations to survive. If it was not for major corporations taking charge and raising awareness and donations for notable charities, many charities would struggle to reach their goals. Yes, many corporations gain goodwill, and in some cases increased sales from aligning with charities (such as the NFL and their “pink” campaign). However, it is a win-win for both parties involved. It is better if a corporation’s true intent is to help instead of profit, but even if the motivation is profit, it still helps the charitable organizations in the end. In business we are always searching for win-win situations where both parties come up profitable in the end. Governments also encourage this situation by putting in place tax incentives for charitable donations by organizations. Corporations use these exemptions to maximize profits, and charities receive much needed cash flow.

Against Cause Marketing:

Cause marketing by major corporations results in many side effects which hurt the charities they are trying to help. First, organizations align themselves with “popular” causes (NFL with the pink campaign), which they will gain the most publicity by helping. By align with the most “popular” causes, a monopoly of charities essentially forms. Causes which already have awareness (who hasn’t heard of breast cancer?), gain even more awareness, while other causes are left in the dark. The small charities are forces to compete with gigantic organizations, and there is no way they can win. Second, organizations detract away from the true cause if they are only concerned with profits, and can in turn hurt the organization they are aligned with. As we have seen with several notable athletes who have causes (Lance Armstrong), if they is negative publicity associated with the cause, the major corporations (Nike) are quick to cut ties and funding to the organization.

My stance:

Cause marketing is necessary, and in some cases a necessary evil. It is better if the corporation is truly concerned with the charitable organization they are helping, such as providing volunteers for events. However, this is not always the case. Some corporations are just looking for tax exemptions, or a way to draw more customers to their business. Some corporation also only align themselves with the most popular causes possible to try and maximize publicity and profits. Charitable organizations still reap the benefits of even these misguided attempts at cause marketing, which is a win-win for situation for both organizations involved. Corporations should align themselves with charitable organizations they truly care about it; however, even if it the intent is not true, the result is still positive for both parties involved.