25 April 2006

Stuff the kids [The Guardian]

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putting people first
by experientia

Stuff the kids
It bombards them with adverts, seduces them with merchandise – and then fills them with additives. In an exclusive extract from his explosive new book, Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) reveals in The Guardian how the fast-food industry exploits its key audience – the very young.

Some excerpts from the article:

“Before trying to control children’s behaviour, advertisers have to learn what kids like. Today’s market researchers not only interview children in shopping malls, they also organise focus groups for children as young as two or three.”

“At a focus group, kids are paid to sit around and discuss what they like to buy. The idea of creating a squeezable ketchup bottle came from kids in a focus group. Heinz earned millions of dollars from the idea; the kids who thought of it were paid a small amount. Advertisers study children’s drawings, hire children to take part in focus groups, pay children to attend sleepover parties and then ask them questions late into the night. Advertisers send researchers into homes, stores, fast food restaurants and other places where kids like to gather. They study the fantasy lives of young children, then apply the findings in advertisements and product designs.”

“The fast food chains now work closely with leading toy makers, giving away small toys with children’s meals and selling larger ones at their restaurants.”

“”McDonald’s is in some ways a toy company, not a food company,” says one retired fast food executive. Indeed, McDonald’s is perhaps the largest toy company in the world. It sells or gives away more than 1.5 billion toys every year. Almost one out of every three new toys given to American kids each year comes from McDonald’s or another fast food chain.”

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