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Advertising is Not Responsible for Fat America
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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The fight between brands and those regulatory machines continue. The political sphere is ready to challenge and tighten its grip on the advertising industry, specifically those "junk" food brands and foods generally consumed by younger Americans, before looking at all the facts. It's election season, and facts or not, the powers-that-be want to send a message to voters so they can continue to be in power.

There has been a debate going on about whether or not advertising has played a part in manipulating the buying habits of children and adults, causing them to only buy unhealthy foods and therefore spreading this obesity epidemic through unknowing America. If only the advertising industry knew what they were doing — this whole thing could have been avoided!

Not necessarily. Katherine Mangu-Ward, managing editor of Reason magazine, wrote a nice piece in the Washington Post about eating habits. Of course, she touched on the hot-button issue of food and advertising. She quotes the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences, which said "current evidence is not sufficient to arrive at any finding about a causal relationship from television advertising to adiposity among children and youth." Mangu-Ward also says in the article that the IoM concluded the same for adults.

If anybody knows what they are talking about when it comes to obesity and its causes, the Institute of Medicine is a good place to start, right? Let's go further into it. In the IoM's Legal Strategies in Childhood Obesity Prevention: Workshop Summary, it reveals a study that a professor from George Washington University did for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) where he examined if there was any link between television advertising and obesity. And the conclusion was that it was difficult to distinguish the difference between the effect of advertising and other activities involved with television viewing.

To put it plainly, the experts in the fields of childhood obesity cannot find a reason to blame advertising, so those politicians and "consumer protection" groups should take their argument elsewhere. It is tiring to see advertising be used as a scapegoat because it seems to be too difficult for others to take responsibility for their own actions. Yes, it is quite easy to blame a multi-billion dollar company with a huge marketing budget and exclaim that their advertising made you and your children supersized versions of yourselves. But it looks like it is even harder to accept the fact that advertising isn't entirely to blame.

Face it, folks; if you want a free market economy, a "free enterprise system", as they like to call it, businesses of all kinds have to have the ability and the right to advertise to get their message out. If consumers don't like the message, then it is up them to do something about it. Buying the product and then crying about the effects of it demonstrates a level of consumer intelligence the advertising industry seems to overestimate.

Don't hate the messenger, hate the game. 

(Yes, that just happened.)


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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