• Fast Food for the Fans?

    Have you ever noticed how little advertising there is on television for Mum’s home-cooking?

    And conversely, have you ever wondered why it is that the purveyors of fast food find it necessary to spend so much on advertising their wares?

    If their products are as good as they say they are, why do they need to buy so much expensive advertising time – very often using the time not so much to proclaim how good the products are for you, but trying to associate them with “fun” events like rugby matches, and placing their advertisements before and during such events.

    Their aim seems to be to persuade the public that an exciting and enjoyable sports event cannot be complete without a helping of their product. Sometimes, the effort to persuade us of this supposed truth reaches ludicrous proportions, as with the arrival by helicopter at a rugby ground of a make-believe “Colonel Sanders” who proceeds (apparently) to distribute lavish supplies of his product (for nothing, so its seems) “for the fans”.

    There are three literally fantastical elements to this pantomime. First, the implication that the arrival of the product is just what is needed to make the occasion complete, secondly, that it is something that happens accompanied by an aura of glamour, excitement and familiarity, and thirdly, that the product is in some sense or another cost-free. This latter representation is of course entirely false, since fast food is just about the most expensive way you can find to feed yourself and your family.

    Even the suggestion that a helping of the product will guarantee you a good time is misleading. The purchase of fast food is simply a retail transaction, as soulless as buying a pair of socks, notwithstanding the emotive catch phrase “I’m lovin’ it” that supports one such product. It is accompanied by none of the love and care that attends the preparation and consumption of food at home and in a family environment.

    Far from being an important element in an enjoyable social environment, research shows that buying and eating fast food is all too often an anti-social – often solitary – occupation.

    Chinese research shows that students who regularly rely on fast food are more likely than most to suffer from depression. This is not so much, one imagines, a consequence of the nutritional deficiencies of fast food, as of the fact that fast food is so often purchased by, and then consumed by, solitary individuals.

    And further research, closer to home, shows that one of the keys to a longer and healthier life is to avoid fast food.

    This suggests that the nutritional downsides of a diet heavy in fats, salt and sugar should not be overlooked. At a time when our medical and public health experts are increasingly concerned about the impact of fast foods on the health of young people, and particularly the role played by fast foods in the incidence of conditions like obesity and illnesses like diabetes, it is regrettable that some of those most vulnerable to the misleading images portrayed in television advertising are being exploited in this way.

    I am not suggesting that there is any case for regulating or outlawing such advertising. What I am seeking is that the advertisers themselves might be induced to change tack – perhaps a forlorn hope to expect that they might put aside their commercial interests for the sake of the general good. There is of course a legitimate case that could be made for occasionally buying fast food, especially when a hard-pressed Mum simply doesn’t have the time for the shopping and preparation that are needed to produce home-cooked meals.

    What I do hope is that, if the supposed glamour and feel-good aspect of fast foods can be stripped away, potential consumers will be able to see more clearly the ruthlessness with which they are being targeted by advertising of this kind and can see these products for what they are – an expensive short-cut to a quick and unhealthy meal, rather than a passport to a good time.

    Bryan Gould
    21 May 2019


  1. Lynn Prentice says: May 27, 2019 at 1:04 amReply

    This kind of advertising all just passes me by. The only place that I get advertising these days is billboards and the net.

    I don’t watch free-to-air TV mainly because I can’t be bothered with the time wasting ads, reality shows, and general levels of anti-social crap like the effective advert volume levels. Back in 2012 after a house move, I simply didn’t connect aerial or the sky box (with its damn ads).

    Instead there has been an increasing flow of legitimate add-free TV/Movie channels – paid but irritation free. It is the same everywhere else.

    I don’t listen to commercial radio because of spotify and social media (the latter because of people recommending artists). I do listen to RNZ National (mostly while biking too and from work) because it has interesting news.

    Newspapers? Who has the time for paper copies?

    I read the online material – mostly Stuff these days (currently there doesn’t seem to be anything worth paying a premium for NZ Herald online). I do pay for NYT and weekly magazines because there is sufficient depth. That, plus the usual online research that is part of my working life and occasional excursions into twitter, facebook and youtube provide the only advertising I get exposed to.

    The cost for our monthly subscriptions is well less than $150. It has been worth it just to get rid of the types of advertising you’re informing me of….

  2. Phillip Cowley says: June 9, 2019 at 12:48 amReply

    I am down in Dunedin and would be great if you could get some of your articles into the Otago Daily Times. The newspaper offers only one view point on Brexit and that is the pro Remain viewpoint. Basically saying the Brexiters didn’t understand the question and believed the “Lies”.
    Strangely a positive case for EU membership is never offered just regurgitated attacks on the Brexiters.

    Thank you

    Phillip Cowley

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