Last updated: 07 Dec, 2020

Australian parents have taken a stand and are demanding that unhealthy food manufacturers distance themselves from advertising to children as part of the Parent’s Voice Fame & Shame Awards.

Now in its 16th year, the annual awards highlight the worst of unhealthy food marketing and celebrate those promoting a healthier lifestyle to kids instead.

In a clear example of the increasing amount of unhealthy food marketing targeting children, this year’s Fame & Shame Awards feature a new shame category: Ad-demic. The Ad-demic award is given to a campaign that parents believe have shamelessly utilised the COVID-19 pandemic to sell their products to Australian children.

While Victoria celebrates its double zero ‘doughnut days’, parents have called out this year’s Ad-demic winner and doughnut heavy weight, Krispy Kreme, for using social media ads that encourage children to ‘multitask’ by staying home, eating doughnuts and playing video games.

Alice Pryor, Parents’ Voice Manager said: “The COVID-19 pandemic is a time to be focussing on healthy behaviours, but companies continue to put profits ahead of children’s health. In a digital world, targeting children in a pandemic is not hard, but it should be. The Australian Government needs to act to protect our children.”

After a year spent largely at home, there’s been an increase in children using digital technology, but there’s also been a rise in the amount of unhealthy marketing targeted towards children on digital platforms.

VicHealth CEO, Dr Sandro Demaio, reflected on data from the organisation’s new ‘Under the Radar’ Report: “We found that an estimated 72 million data points, such as age, location and interests, will have been collected by companies on each and every child by the age of 13. This data can be sold to unhealthy marketers who can effectively target and attract your child.”

Not only has the amount of marketing to children increased, but it has become more nuanced with the introduction of new ‘kid-friendly’ platforms, such as Twitch and TikTok, and promotions by influencers which can make it hard for both kids and adults to identify marketing in disguise.

The Digital Ninja shame category highlights the most insidious examples of these kinds of innovative marketing techniques, with Coca-Cola’s use of Amazon’s Alexa device to order free personalised bottles of coke being voted the worst of the worst by Australian parents.

Ms Pryor added, “For the first time in the history of the Fame & Shame Awards, we have digital marketing examples in all categories except for Bother Boards.”

The Bother Boards category didn’t get off lightly though, with KFC’s bus billboards receiving a shaming for using low prices and catchy slogans to appeal to teens and tweens who see their ads as they take public transport to and from school.

Kelly Kennington, Obesity Prevention Manager at Cancer Council Western Australia, added: “There’s a huge amount of public support at the moment for the removal of unhealthy marketing on state owned assets, especially amongst parents. Parents can’t be with their kids every moment of every day. Instead, they need policy change to ensure that environments frequented by their kids, like bus stops, train stations and shopping centres are free from unhealthy advertisements.”

McDonald’s Australia has been awarded the Pester Power shame category in this year’s awards, for their television commercial, ‘Denise’, which was deemed by even the Advertising Standards Community Panel to have breached marketing to kids’ codes.

Jane Martin, Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition said: “We have industry setting their own rules on advertising to children, so it is no surprise they are not working. We need government to set higher standards with regulation to protect children from this pervasive and powerful marketing.”

McDonald’s Australia continued to be condemned, with parents giving them the Foul Sport shame award for their integrated AFL sponsorship program.

Ms Pryor said: “It’s not just television commercials parents need to worry about anymore. It’s sponsored content during the games, goal post wraps, free burgers for fans of the winning team and the co-opting of the post game kick to kick. Families just want to watch the game together, free from the bombardment of unhealthy marketing.”

Cereal offender Kellogg’s also received their ninth Smoke and Mirrors shaming for their LCMs ad, ‘Mum and Dad’s Sure-fire Lunchbox Hit’. The ad touts “awesomeness of puffed rice” but unsurprisingly fails to mention LCMs dismal Health Star Rating (0.5 to 2) and that some bars contain a whopping 35 per cent sugar – Aussie parents have voted, and they say that this product is a lunchbox no-go.

It was not all bad news at the Fame and Shame Awards with two ‘fame’ awards given to companies promoting healthy foods and active lifestyles to kids. The Parents’ Choice – Physical Activity award was presented to VicHealth for encouraging girls to get active wherever and whenever with their This Girl Can campaign.

Perfection Fresh, runner up in 2019, took out this year’s Parents’ Choice – Food category with their new Qukes campaign.

Rebecca Zosel, parent of three, said: “It’s worrying that only 6.3 per cent of Australian children consume the recommended serving of vegetables each day. It’s really important that healthy eating is visible, and that the healthy options are appealing for kids and that’s why I love the playfulness of the Qukes campaign. It shows kids that veggie snacks can be both fun and yummy.”

Ms Pryor concluded: “The link between unhealthy food marketing to children and 1 in 4 Australian children being above a healthy weight is clear. With even a pandemic unable to stop it, it’s past time for the Government to step up and set higher regulatory standards for the packaging and marketing of food products to protect Aussie kids.”

About Parents’ Voice

Parents’ Voice is an online network of parents who are interested in improving the food and activity environments of Australian children. Formerly known as The Parents’ Jury, Parents’ Voice was formed in 2004 and represents thousands of Australian parents, carers and health professionals. Parents’ Voice is supported by Diabetes Victoria and VicHealth.

About Fame & Shame

The Parents’ Voice Fame & Shame Awards aim to raise awareness of the persuasive and misleading techniques that advertisers use to promote unhealthy foods and drinks to children, and to recognise the campaigns that promote healthy food and physical activity to children in a fun and appealing way.

Since 2005, the awards have given Australian parents the chance to have their say about the food marketing techniques they believe are targeting their children. Parents’ Voice members nominate examples of the best and worst food marketing campaigns throughout the year. Parents then vote on the shortlisted ads to determine the winner.