The World Health Organization (WHO) has labelled childhood obesity as one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21 century.
In 2010, according to WHO, there are an estimated 42 million children under five years old who are overweight, and this figure is increasing at an alarming rate. In Australia, in 2007–08, around eight per cent of children were estimated to be obese and 17 per cent overweight. Children who are overweight or obese are likely to grow into obese adults who risk developing a number of chronic non-communicable ailments, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. As these diseases add billions in health costs to national economies, it is clearly desirable both for individuals and for society overall, to devise and introduce policies which prohibit or limit their proliferation.
Marketing on the Internet employs a variety of techniques to appeal including advertorials, competitions, video links, product discounts and ‘advergames’.
Advergames are advertiser-sponsored video games which embed brand messages in colourful, fun, fast-paced adventures which are created by companies for the explicit purpose of promoting their brands. Indeed, advertising has effectively broadened to include a comprehensive range of activities—television advertising, marketing on the Internet, product placement in television programs, films , and DVDs, computer and videogames, peer-to-peer or viral marketing, supermarket sales promotions, cross promotions between films and television programs, use of licensed characters and spokes-characters, celebrity endorsements, marketing in children’s magazines, outdoor advertising, print marketing, sponsorship of school and sporting activities, marketing on mobile phones and branding on toys and clothing. More disposable income is now available to many families, and consequently, parents appear more willing to buy goods for their children than in the past.
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These meanings in turn, shape consciousness and behaviour subtly by sanctioning some forms of thought and behaviour while de-legitimising others.
Advertisements in fact place less emphasis on communicating specific product information and more on communicating the social and symbolic uses of products.
Bagdikian labels this as ‘carefully noncontroversial, light, and nonpolitical’ programming.
In briefly tracing the history of advertising in magazines Bagdikian suggests that this practice has been commonplace for some time: The influence of advertising on magazines reached a point where editors began selecting articles not only on the basis of their expected interest for readers but for their influence on advertisements.