I almost forgot what day it is! That's right: Tuesday, aka Fast Food Nation day. As stated previously, the book has ten chapters, an introduction, an epilogue, and an afterword, so this feature will go into December. I'm hoping to make the posts a center for thoughtful discussion about the issue, but if that doesn't happen at least I know I'm getting the word out. :) Oh, and to read previous posts on the book, just click on the "fast food nation" tag at the end of this one.
Last week, I promised that this post would get people's blood boiling. Let's see if I can make good on that promise
Chp 2: Notes
+"Walt Disney and Roy Kroc [the guy who made McDonald's a nationwide franchise. -Eva] were masterful salesmen. They perfected the art of selling things to children. And their success led many others to aim marketing efforts at kids, turning America's youngest consumers into a demographic group that is now avidly studied, analyzed, and targeted by the world's largest corporations." (33-4)
+Kroc donated $250K to Nixon's reelection fund in return for presidential support of a bill allowing companies to pay sixteen and seventeen year olds 20% less than minimum wage. Not only did Nixon oblige, he also "permitted McDonald's to raise the price of its Quarter Pounders, despite mandatory wage and price controls restricting other fast food chains." (37)
+"[Kroc] liked to tell people that he was really in show business, not the restaurant business. Promoting McDonald's to children was a clever, pragmatic decision. "A child who loves our TV commercials," Kroc explained, "and brings her grandparents to a McDonald's gives us two more customers." (41)
+"Twenty-five years ago, only a handful of American companies directed their marketing at children-Disney, McDonald's, candy makers, toy makers, manufacturers of breakfast cereal. TOday children are being targeted by phone companies, oil companies, and automobile copmanies, as well as clothing stores and restaurant chains. The explosion in children's advertising occurred during the 1980s. Many working parents, feeling guilty about spending less time with their kids, started spending more money on them. One marketing expert has called the 1980s "the decade of the child consumer." After largely ignoring children for years, Madison Avenue began to scrutinize and pursue them. Major ad agencies now have children's divisions, and a variety of marketing firms focus solely on kids." (42-3)
+"The bulk of the advertising directed at children today as an immediate goal. "It's not just getting the kids to whine," one marketer explained in Selling to Kids, "it's giving them a specific reason to ask for the product." Years ago sociologist Vance Packard described children as "surrogate salesmen" who had to persuade other people, usually their parents, to buy what they wanted. Marketers now use different terms to explain the intended response to their ads-such as "leverage", "the nudge factor," "pester power." The aim of most children's advertising is straightforward: get kids to nag their parents and nag them well." (43)
+"Today's market researchers not only conduct surveys of children in shopping malls, they also organize focus groups for kids as young as two or three. They analyse children's artwork, hire children to run focus groups, stage slumber parties and then question children into the night." (44)
+In the late 80s, the Federal Trade Commission tried to ban TV advertising for kids under eight, arguing that they couldn't make informed decisions and were being exploited. However, lobbyists from the TV, advertising, and toys killed it. (46)
+Some stats: average American kids spend 21 hrs/wk watching TV (equals 1.5 months/yr), the only thing they do more other than school is sleep, see 30,000+ commericials. 25% of kids 2-5 have a TV in their bedroom.
+"...fast food chains are now gaining access to the last advertising-free outposts of American life. In 1993 District 11 in Colorado Springs started a nationwide trend, becoming the first public school distrct in the US to place ads for Burger King in its hallways and on the sides of its school buses....For $12K, a company got five school-bus ads, hallway ads in all fifty-two of the district's schools, ads in their school newspapers, a stadium banner, ads over the stadium's public address system during games, and free tickets to high school sporting events." (51)
+"The nation's three major beverage manufactureres are now spending large sums to increase the amount of soda that American children consume...Eight-year-olds are considered ideal customers; they have about sixty-five years of purchasing in front of them. "Entering the schools makes perfect sense," the trade journal concluded." (53-4)
+"...sodas provide empty calories and have replaced far more nutrious beverages in the American diet. Excessive soda consumption in children can lead to calcium deficiencies and a greater likelihood of bone fragmentation." (54)
+"Soft-drink consumption is now common among American toddlers. About one-fifth of the nation's one and two year olds now drink soda...."Pepsi, Dr Pepper and Seven-Up encouraged feeding soft drinks to babies by liscensing their logos to a major maker of baby bottles..." A 1997 study published in the Journal of Dentistry for Children found that many infants were indeed being fed soda in those bottles." (54)
+"The spiraling cost of textbooks has led thousands of American school districts to use corporate-sponsoed teaching materials. A 1998 study of these teaching materials by the Consumers Union found that 80 percent were biased, providing students with incomplete or slanted information that favored the sponsor's products and views. Proctor & Gamble's Decision Earth program taught that clear-cut logging was actually good for the environment; teaching aids distributed by the Exxon Environmental Foundation said that fossil fuels created few environmental problems and that alternative sources of energy were too expensive; a study guide sponsored by the Americna Coal Foundation dismissed fears of a greenouse effect, claiming that "the earth could benefit rather than be harmed by increased carbon dioxide."" (55)
+"The money that these corporations spend on their "educational" materials is fully tax-deductable." (56)
+"The American School Food Service Association estimates that about 30 percent of the public high schools in the US offer branded fast food. Elementary schools in Fort Collins, CO, now serve food from Pizza Hut, McDonald's, and Subway on special lunch days." (56)
Chp 2: Thoughts
If you're not screaming mad by the end of reading those notes, then I don't think you'll be ruffled by anything. For me, it's almost enough to make me not want to have kids! Of course, I know that I can try to raise them as aware consumers, and of course send them off with packed lunches to try to avoid fast food in elementary school (!), but it'll take some strong swimming to go against this tide. I wonder what kind of parents let their little kids participate in the focus groups Schlosser mentions ad agencies run; would you have your son or daughter go to a sleep over with adults? Kind of weird, imo. I cannot believe that corporations can not only create biased textbooks, but do it for free! Meanwhile, public schools are facing such a budget crisis they create advertising packages. There's something very wrong with that picture.
You'll note that my thoughts aren't very coherent this week. Basically, I think it's wrong, immoral, and should be illegal. These companies take kids and treat them as money-making machines. So sad.
I can't wait to see y'alls reactions to this, so even if you don't normally comment, please share any experiences/opinions about this one. So many of you are parents, which would be an interesting view.