23 Nov, 2012 Last updated: 16 Oct, 2015

Advocacy group Parents’ Voice has crowned Hungry Jack’s and Chupa Chups as having Australia's worst junk food digital marketing campaigns.

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Advocacy group Parents’ Voice has crowned Hungry Jack’s and Chupa Chups as having Australia's worst junk food digital marketing campaigns.

Highlighting the rise of digital marketing targeted to children and teens, the group named Hungry Jack's ‘Makes it Better’ and Chupa Chups ‘Lol-a-Coaster’ apps as joint winners of the Digital Ninja Award in The Parents' Jury 2012 Fame and Shame Awards.

In a first for the awards, an expert panel of parents, academics and advertisers worked alongside concerned Parents' Voice members to name the best and worst examples of food advertising aimed at children.

Campaigns Manager for Parents' Voice Corrina Langelaan said parents have a growing concern about industry use of digital media to target children and teens.

“This year, we looked at the good, the bad and the apps. Many kids today are more tech savvy than their parents, but they're no less vulnerable to sophisticated food marketing techniques.

“Children of all ages have access to multiple forms of social and digital media, making them an easy target for the marketers of unhealthy food. It’s a constant challenge, even for the most vigilant of parents, to oversee what their child is accessing online.

"Something that looks like a free and fun game like ‘Lol-a-Coaster’ in fact contains what many parents will consider insidious forms of branding. Even the reviews describe it as an “advertisement based game”.

“The Hungry Jack's ‘Makes it Better’ App is a perfect example of a Digital Ninja. With its free junk food offers, this app is simple, effective and appealing. Encouraging a young audience to consume unhealthy food anytime is achieved via a simple shake of their phone.”

Traditional marketing still has its place in the Fame and Shame Awards. For the third year running, Kellogg's TV advertising was singled out by parents for its drive to encourage pester power.

Mum Kathryn Taylor, a member of Parents' Voice and part of the expert judging panel, said feedback from concerned parents had helped make it a clear winner of the Shame Award for Pester Power.

“The kind of sneaky advertising shown as part of the LCM lunchbox advertisement makes me angry on behalf of so many parents. Not only does it appear as though having an LCM in your lunchbox makes kids more popular amongst their peers, the fact that this child appears to have one every school day suggests it is more than just an occasional treat."

“It’s tough for parents to say no all the time. I believe in treats in moderation, but we’re still the ones who have to battle daily with our kids. Kids everywhere do believe the hype. They want to be popular and this kind of advertising shamelessly plays on that vulnerability.”

It's not all bad news, with the panel giving Aussie Bananas a thumbs up for its well known ‘Nature’s Energy Snack’ campaign.

In a tough field where all the nominees used clever marketing techniques to promote healthy eating in a fun way, Aussie Bananas’ witty design appealed to older children and their parents, while it's vibrant approach and catchy jingle resonated with a younger demographic.
Host of the awards, Cancer Council NSW believes they remain necessary in order to highlight the failure of industry self-regulation. Clare Hughes, Nutrition Program Manager at Cancer Council NSW said:

“Cancer Council’s recent research showed that the food industry’s so-called responsible marketing initiatives have not been successful in reducing unhealthy food marketing to children. The fact that after eight years we still need to have these awards is just further evidence that food advertising is still creating pester power in Australian homes, and it’s little wonder given the lengths food marketers are now going in order to reach kids online.”

Supporting this point of view, Corrina Langelaan from The Parents’ Jury also said: “Government now needs to set a standard to reduce the power and reach of unhealthy food marketing seen by children. Such a move is recognised by the World Health Organisation as an important element of a broad strategy to prevent overweight and obesity. Australian families deserve no less.”

Notes to Editor

Parents’ Voice is an online network of over 5,000 parents, grandparents and carers, who are interested in improving the food and physical activity environments of Australian children.

It’s supported by Cancer Council Australia, Diabetes Australia Vic, VicHealth, YMCA Victoria and the Australian and New Zealand Obesity Society

About the Awards The Parents’ Voice Fame and 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 advertisements that promote healthy food to children in a fun and appealing way.

The Awards give Australian parents a chance to have their say about the food marketing techniques they believe are targeting their children. Members of The Parents’ Voice have been nominating examples of the best and worst children's food marketing campaigns all year. From the nominations, members voted to shortlist finalists, which went forward to a panel of parents, academics and advertisers for final decision:

Pester Power: is awarded to the food marketing campaign that uses techniques which appeal to children, leading to them nagging their parents for unhealthy foods.

Awarded to Kellogg’s LCM Bars. This advertisement shows a school girl receiving a different LCM bar in her lunch box every school day. It appears to suggest her popularity among her peers increases with each unveiling of the LCM Bar in her lunch box.
Parents’ Choice: congratulates a food advertisement that promotes healthy eating to children in a fun and appealing way.
Awarded to Aussie Bananas. The campaign uses a witty and well produced advertising sequence to encourage children to think of bananas as energy filled fruit.

Digital Ninja: This award is given to the brand which has used digital media in the most obvious way to target children, gaining their attention; driving active participation in the brand and encouraging pester power.

Two nominees ‘won’ this award. Hungry Jack’s for its ‘Makes it Better’ campaign and Chupa Chups for ‘Lol-a-Coaster’. The Hungry Jack’s app features special offers, giveaways and helps locate fast food outlets, while ‘Lol-a-Coaster’ is a fast paced game with fun graphics, catchy music and product placement throughout the game. This last example also required the purchase of Chupa Chups to move through levels of the game.