DigitalAds.Org: Exposing How Marketers Target Youth

  • Berkeley Media Studies Group; Center for Digital Democracy
Child using electronic device

Research shows that children and adolescents are more vulnerable to marketing’s influence than adults. Children are spending more time online than ever before and advertisers are getting crafty with how they target our kids—specifically, children of color, giving food and beverage companies more ways to manipulate them and instill lifelong unhealthy eating habits., a website created by PHI’s Berkeley Media Studies Group and the Center for Digital Democracy, exposes how advertisers are targeting youth and shares how countries across the globe are taking action to prevent food and beverage marketers from harming kids and how the U.S. should do the same.

Learn more about how Big Food uses targeted marketing tactics to reach youth; explore resources on junk food and health; get connected to expert sources and find ways to take action today to protect your community. 

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Big Food is the New Face of Big Tech

Food and beverage marketing has a tremendous impact on what young people eat and drink, and marketers use this knowledge to reach kids at a young age, potentially shaping their eating habits for life. Collectively, marketers’ digital tactics for targeting youth comprise what some advocates are now calling the digital marketing genome. It’s as cutting-edge, complex, and invasive as it sounds. The first step in addressing it is understanding how this “genome” operates.

  • Mass surveillance and data collection: Powerful analytical software mines data from social media and other online applications, allowing marketers to analyze behavior patterns and profile young users.
  • Hyperpersonalization: Companies identify, profile, and segment consumers into highly granular categories; they can then exclude or target individuals and groups and engage with them across multiple websites and devices.
  • Artificial intelligence and manipulating the subconscious: These techniques allow marketers to study the brain’s response to advertising in hopes of circumventing rational decision-making among consumers.
  • Real-time, location-based & mobile marketing: Marketers use mobile messaging, GPS, and an array of Internet applications to target and influence consumers based on geo-location.
  • Infiltrating social networks: By penetrating social networks, marketers are able to survey and track users’ online conversations and behaviors without their awareness.
  • Immersive environments and gaming: The goal is to blur the line between the digital and real world and make it hard for users to distinguish between marketing and other content.
  • Online and streaming video: “Where one customer sees a Coca-Cola on the table, the other sees green tea,” a marketing executive explained, regarding product placement within videos. “Where one customer sees a bag of chips, another sees a muesli bar… in the exact same scene.”
Lori Dorfman
U.S. companies are infecting the world’s young people with invasive, stealth, and incessant digital marketing for junk food. And they are targeting Black and Brown youth because they know kids of color are cultural trendsetters. Big Food and Big Tech run away with the profits after trampling the health of children, youth, and families. Dr. Lori Dorfman

Director, PHI’s Berkeley Media Studies Group

Just How Bad is the Problem? The Data Paint a Troubling Picture:

  • 95% of teens have access to a smartphone.
  • More than 45.7 million Gen Z viewers regularly watch streaming television.
  • According to the Institute of Medicine, between 1994 and 2004 there were “3,936 new food products and 511 new beverage products targeted to children and youth.” Most of these were “high in total calories, sugar, or fat and low in nutrients.”
  • Marketers spent around $9.7 billion (U.S.) for their worldwide influencer efforts in 2020, and are expected to spend up to $15 billion in 2022.
  • Cutting-edge digital marketing tactics are happening in addition to traditional marketing tactics, which are already problematic. For example, Black children and teens see 90% more ads for snacks and sugary drinks on TV compared to their white counterparts.

Originally published by DigitalAds.Org

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