Persuasive research paper


The Ethics of Food Advertising Targeted

Toward Children: Parental Viewpoint Aysen Bakir

Scott J. Vitell

ABSTRACT. The children’s market has become signif-

icantly more important to marketers in recent years. They

have been spending increasing amounts on advertising,

particularly of food and beverages, to reach this segment.

At the same time, there is a critical debate among parents,

government agencies, and industry experts as to the ethics

of food advertising practices aimed toward children.

The present study examines parents’ ethical views of

food advertising targeting children. Findings indicate that

parents’ beliefs concerning at least some dimensions of

moral intensity are significantly related to their ethical

judgments and behavioral intentions of food advertising

targeting children as well as the perceived moral intensity

of the situation.

KEY WORDS: parents, children, ethics, food advertis-


The children’s market has become significantly

important to marketers (McNeal, 1998). Many mar-

keters spend millions of dollars on advertising to reach

this growing segment (Jardine and Wentz, 2005).

More specifically, food and beverage companies in the

USA spend an estimated US $10–12 billion targeting

children and adolescents (McKay, 2005). According

to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children are exposed

to more than 7,600 commercials on candy, cereal, and

fast food in any given year (Kotz, 2007).

The effects of advertising on children have been

highly debated among various groups, including par-

ents, researchers, industry experts, and government

agencies. One of the primary debates has been the

potential impact of food advertising directed at chil-

dren. A variety of institutions are involved in this

debate. Some of these organizations such as public

advocacy groups criticize the food companies and

television networks concerning the increased amounts

spent as well as the types of …