Marketing Obesity

According to a study at the University of Liverpool in the UK, obese and overweight children consume more than 100% more food after watching food advertisements on television.

Psychologist Dr Jason Halford said: “Our research confirms food TV advertising has a profound effect on all children’s eating habits — doubling their consumption rate.”

Seth Godin just wrote a terrific post about social responsibility in marketing in which he asks “are you responsible for what you market?”

Marketing can be partly blamed for the rise of the obesity epidemic in the US. When marketers choose to introduce more snack foods or show a food commercial to kids they are contributing to the problem. McDonald’s spent $1662 million on US ads in 2005, the 17th largest spend, to persuade people to eat extremely unhealthy foods.

Marketers have enormous power to influence the behavior of millions and that power can be used to make the world better or make it worse. Marketing is not about convincing people to buy things they don’t need. It’s about spreading great ideas that add value to the lives of as many people as possible. So my question for those who market obesity in this country is this: are you adding value to the world, or just adding value to yourself?