This lesson helps young people discover “tricks of the trade” in food and beverage marketing. They practice comparing the messages conveyed through advertisements with the nutrition information available about different products.
Explain to the youth that eating healthful foods is important to a person’s growth, development and overall well-being. Their eating behaviors in childhood will carry over into adulthood and contribute to their long-term health and risk for chronic (long-lasting) disease. One of the driving factors influencing eating behaviors and food choices of youth is food advertising. Food advertisers spend large amounts of money targeting children, in an attempt to build brand loyalty and to persuade them to desire a particular food product. It is important that children begin to develop the skills to navigate this complex media-saturated world they live in.
Activity: Exploring Advertisements
- Advertisements are all around us. Ask young people to name some places they might encounter advertisements.
- Show young people a variety of food and drink packages, print ads, and video clips. If possible, have multiple examples for several different products or families of products.
- Other popular methods of marketing foods might be sweepstakes, contests or “clubs.” If one of these methods is used to market a product, then they must adhere to these rules:
- If there is a prize, it should be clearly presented.
- If there is an opportunity to win a prize, the odds of winning should be clearly stated. Share an example or two if available.
- Ask young people to compare various marketing strategies used to sell the products. For each example, ask the following questions. (Depending on the size of your group, you may want to split the youth into small groups to each answer the questions about a different advertisement. If time permits, small groups may present their responses to the entire group.)
- What methods were used to promote and sell the products? (e.g., animation, music, bright colors or celebrities)
- How do these methods affect your thoughts and feelings about these products? Do the props make the product more interesting?
- What is the message? (e.g., you’ll be stronger, smarter, have more fun if you eat/drink the product)
- Do you believe it?
- How does the portion size of the product shown compare to what a single serving might be? (e.g., sports drink packaged in 20 oz bottle is actually 2.5 servings)
- How does the suggested or advertised portion compare to the amount you or your family/friends would usually consume? (They are likely to consume the entire packaged/portioned amount.)
Optional Interactive Activity
Young people can practice marketing “tricks of the trade” on CoCo’s AdverSmarts Interactive Food Marketing Game. See additional game formats below.
Learning how to be savvy consumers is a skill that will serve young people well throughout their lifetimes and in many different contexts. Encourage them to pay particular attention in the days ahead to the messages that are all around them, and whether or not those messages are accurate or misleading.
Continuing the Conversation
Hand out the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish, so that families can practice spotting the youth-targeted marketing all around us.
Additional Instructor Resources on Food Marketing to Children