Fast Food advertising has been allowed to profess anything, from the 'healthy quality' of their food to the food company's contribution to homeless kids. While fast food giants are quick to take any of their detractors to court for any erroneous allegations made by members of the public, it doesn't stop these same companies from committing libel themselves through their promotions. However, most fast food companies steer clear of making outrageous claims such any health benefits, preferring to concentrate on marketing their service's convenience, economy and perceived lifestyle. This paper endeavors to highlight this discrepancy in the industry and showcases three fast food companies and their advertising efforts in that regard. Only when the general population breaks free from the cycle of apathy and addiction that compels us to tolerate the abuses of these fast food giants, will these companies finally be made accountable for their advertising claims.
Fast food outlets have become the messiah for the millions of people out there who don't have more than five minutes to spare in grabbing a bite to eat or for the millions of mothers desperate for one night of not cooking dinner for the family. There is certainly a lot to choose from. All one has to do is switch on the television, turn on the radio, go to the cinemas or even walk down the street. People from all walks of life are bombarded each and every day with jingles and gimmicks and catchcries, inviting the consumer to partake of their fried or greasy menu. Some appeal to the consumer's need for convenience, others appeal to the consumer's economic constraints, and others appeal to the consumer's perceived utopian lifestyle. Some even go so far as to appeal to the consumer's interest in healthy eating. But are these appeals from fast food conglomerates based on truth or are they just trying to beef up their profits duplicitously? This paper endeavors to explore some claims that fast food companies have made in the past through their advertising. Three fast food giants will also be held under the microscope and studied for any evidence of duplicity through their advertising.
Before conducting this undertaking, it is important to illustrate just how the fast food phenomenon has pervaded the American way of life. In 1970, people in the U.S. consumed approximately $6 billion on fast food. In 2000, Americans ' consumption of fast food exceeded $110 billion. Just to get a little perspective on how prevalent fast food is in the average American household, Americans invest more money on fast food than on higher education, personal computers and software, or new vehicles. Americans invest more money on fast food than on films, literary works, press material, videos, CDs, and music tapes - altogether. Each day an average of 25% of the adult U.S. population ingests fast food (Hendricks, 2001, 1). A large portion of the population are outraged by the dominance fast food possesses over the average American diet. However, the general furore over instances of e coli poisoning, work violations, unhealthy fast food marketing geared at children, etc. isn't really loud. Most people tolerate the instances of abuse these fast food chains inflict on the general population. And, what's interesting is a large portion of the population still patronize fast food outlets. Is it the lure of convenience, low price, etc. that keeps people coming back to fast food outlets for more? (http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/food/schlosse.htm,6)?Is it all down to the advertising? Are consumers really that gullible?
Eric Sclosser, in his book "Fast Food Nation," (Schlosser, 2001, 1) exposes the appalling reality of fast food and its culture (http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/food/schlosse.htm,1).The fast food industry has greatly influenced the American scene, economy, traditions, and general health. For instance:
Chicken McNuggets are composed of beef extracts, while 'animal products' contribute to the flavor of McDonald's french fries.
The fast food industry supports farming processes that are driving autonomous farmers off the land and have helped the diffusion of illnesses such as Mad Cows Disease, E coli, and Foot and Mouth.
32,000 pounds of ground beef can be tainted by just one animal contaminated with E. coli.
A standard fast food hamburger is comprised of meat from as high as hundreds of cows.
About 10,000 new treated food products enter the U.S. each year. Nearly all of them need flavor additives.
The NHS today invests more money on addressing health problems that originate from Americans being overweight than on health problems as a result of smoking.
There are now more people who are familiar with the golden arches of McDonald's (see Appendix I) than the Crucifix (Schlosser, 2001, 1).
In order to investigate how marketing contributes to the dominance of fast food in the average American diet, three fast food companies should be singled out and their marketing campaigns highlighted on order to find out if their advertising has been above board. When one thinks of fast food it is hard to ignore McDonald's, McDonald's is one of the world's pre-eminent employers. It is the world's biggest 'global foodservice retailer,' possessing in excess of 28,000 restaurants servicing almost 43 million people daily in 119 nations. Because of its global reach, McDinald's is particularly sensitive about how its brand is perceived in the market (http://nttrcn.8m.com/mcdonalds.html,1).
In 1991, McDonald's, sued two people for libel. The charges were to do with a leaflet created and distributed by the two defendants. The case went on for six years and provoked a lot of media attention. McLibel is the only concrete recorded proof of McDonald's abuse of its commanding market position. The defendants believed that there were eight factors that McDonald's were wanting in:
Health and nutrition: the judge ruled that McDonald's advertising "pretended a nutritional benefit" in the food which was non-existent);
Environment: the judge decreed that McDonald's did not contribute to the obliteration of the rainforest by way of augmenting cattle ranching;
Advertising: the judge agreed that McDonald's market to children so as to control the market. However, the judge disagreed with the allegation thatMcDonald's employs "gimmicks" in advertising to hide their food's quality;
Employment: the judge decreed that McDonald's were unnaturally keeping wages in the catering industry down by only paying low salaries;
Cruelty of animals: the judge agreed that animal cruelty did occur;
Starvation in the third world: the judge did not abide by the allegation that McDonald's is responsible for third world hunger;
Food poisoning: the judge disagreed with the idea that food poisoning was a direct result of McDonald's food being undercooked or of poor quality (http://nttrcn.8m.com/mcdonalds.html,1).
McDonald's takes every opportunity to address bad press if they are able to. In the last ten years it has taken the BBC, Channel 4, "The Guardian," and numerous others to court. However, bad press still circulates, although this may be more of a normal trait with huge corporations - a perfect counter to some of the false promotions McDonald's has been responsible for. Two years ago, McDonald's were compelled to pay £10,000 after a Coventry branch kept on serving food for four hours, even though the facility employees were already wading in leaked sewage. Last Year, an American discovered the head of a chicken in her McNuggets (see Appendix II) (http://nttrcn.8m.com/mcdonalds.html,2).While the "hot coffee in the driver's lap" case was thrown out by a higher court on the grounds of idiocy, another case put forward was based on cholesterol. Mrs. Agnes Upshot of Nusuburb, Iowa, sued McDonald's in lieu of her obese and brain-damaged kids, alleging that McDonald's advertising encouraged her kids to eat large quantities of oily, greasy, fatty food. This promotion caused the deterioration of their arteries and livers, and resulted in their overweight and hyperactive state as young adults now. She is demanding $3 million to pay for medical care, health spa charges, and personal trainers over the course of their lives, plus $6 million in punitive damages for the anxiety she has experienced (http://hyprocrisytoday.com/mcdonald.htm,1).It would appear that many organizations are taking advantage of McDonald's stained image at the moment. Anti-capitalist campaigners constantly aim their arrows at McDonald's, using the brand as the symbol of the system they are resisting. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) organizes anti-McDonald's days every year (http://nttrcn.8m.com/mcdonalds.html,2).
Kentucky Fried Chicken, or KFC, is another example of successful advertising. There are more than 11,000 KFC restaurants in over 80 nations globally, servicing about 8 million customers daily. (http://www.kfc.com/news/pr/072701.htm,1).In July, 2001, KFC launched a new $200 million marketing campaign employing actor Jason Alexander in their television advertisements as a "Chicken Fanatic." The first 30-second commercial screened on network television at prime time on Sunday, July 29. The catch-cry was: "There's Fast Food. Then There's KFC." (see Appendix III) (http://www.kfc.com/news/pr/072701.htm,1)
The campaign had been created to address the notion of bland food offered by other fast food chains, particularly the hamburger franchises. KFC wanted this campaign to steal some of the market share from the burger restaurants. "KFC is declaring war on ordinary, assembled, mundane fast food. There is no need for consumers to compromise taste…