Fast food advertising
Fast food is among one the most heavily advertised sectors of the United States economy, along with automobiles, insurance, retail outlets, and consumer electronics. A 2013 Ad Age compilation of the 25 largest advertisers in the United States ranked McDonald's as the fourth-largest advertiser (spending US$957,000,000 on measurable advertisements in 2012) and Subway at nineteenth (US$516,000,000).
Advertising campaigns for fast food restaurants have changed in their intent over time. Many modern campaigns stress the availability of healthy options after years of criticism for the harmful effects of a fast food diet. The rise in awareness of healthy eating and obesity has negatively impacted the business of these establishments, and their marketing campaigns have attempted to rectify this.
Some fast food restaurants aim their advertising at children and students[original research?]. McDonald's Happy Meals are one example, which includes a toy often tied in with a newly released children's film. Ronald McDonald, first introduced in 1963, is a clown-like advertising mascot designed to appeal to young children. From 1996, Disney was an exclusive partner with McDonald's, linking their products together. They announced the end of this deal in May 2006, with some reports saying that Disney was worried about childhood obesity. McDonald's has since been in talks with rival animation studios.
Chains like Carl's Jr. and Burger King (see Burger King advertising) have directed advertising towards a different demographic – young teenage and college-age men – with trendy, often sexualised, imagery and messages that target men's supposed desire for large, meat-filled burgers and rich, satisfying food. In 2005, for example, Carls' Jr. debuted a controversial ad featuring a bikini-clad Paris Hilton writhing sensuously on an expensive Bentley luxury car while enjoying a large burger. The ad provoked outrage from a number of groups, but Carl's Jr. sales climbed impressively.
Methods of advertising
Common methods of advertising include:
- Television commercial campaigns
- Print media campaigns
- Billboard campaigns
- Event Sponsorship (sporting events and others)
- Product placement in films and television programmes
- Various forms of branding, including clothing
- Direction signs and posters, telling people how far the restaurant is
In February 2005 McDonald's used a viral marketing campaign during Super Bowl XXXIX - the Lincoln Fry. Two Pizza Hut marketing ploys have involved spaceflight. In 2001 they were the first to deliver pizzas to outer space when their vacuum-sealed food arrived at the International Space Station, just a year after agreeing a deal to have a 30-foot Pizza Hut logo placed on the side of an unmanned rocket.
According to research done by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, $4.2 billion was spent in 2009 by fast food industries in advertising through media. The report also showed an increase in television ads exposure to adolescents and teens in recent years. They reported a 21% increase for preschoolers, 34% increase for children, and 39% increase for teens since 2003. While fast food advertising has made an attempt to promote healthy food choices for children, less than 40% of the ads children view are actually promoting kids meals. 
The most recent form of fast food advertising that is still in its early stages of development is advertising through smart phone devices. Several restaurants have created applications that allow customers to make online orders through their smart phones.
Regulation and criticism
One of the main areas of regulation facing fast food companies is the advertising of "junk food" to children. In the United Kingdom, the Children's Food Bill is intended to highly regulate the advertising of such food aimed at children, and many other countries are looking to introduce strict limitations on fast food advertising. Talks between the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the fast food companies were initiated to work together in an effort to improve children's diets, though Burger King withdrew from the discussions.
Some organizations have called for the watershed to apply to various unhealthy food, including fast food. In June 2006, the FSA called for laws to prevent such food from being advertised on television before 9pm. They also called for the disassociation of television and film characters from fast food and stopping celebrities from appearing in such advertisements. The impact of such campaigns is often denied by the fast food companies and the television networks that carry their advertisements. Some networks have also said that tighter regulations would reduce advertising income and that would have a negative impact on the quality of children's programming. In Sweden all advertising aimed at the under-12s is banned, including fast food adverts.
The accuracy of the images of food used by the fast food companies is regularly called into question. The actual product is often described as being of poorer quality to that represented in the image, as highlighted in Alphaila.com's Ads vs. Reality project.
Fast food advertising is often complained about to advertising authorities, with members of the public most usually claiming that the wording is misleading. Not all the complaints are upheld. For example, between 11 September 2002 and 24 March 2004 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK investigated complaints about six McDonald's advertisements, with two of them being upheld. The ASA used one of the upheld complaints as a case study.
In 2006 the European Union passed a new law regarding the labelling of foods - any food with a nutritional claim (such as "low fat") must also highlight that it is high in something else (such as "high salt") if that is the case. While fast food is often not given a traditional label, this may have an impact on advertising.
In November 2006, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) announced that it would ban television advertisements for junk food before, during and after television programming aimed at under-16s in the United Kingdom. These regulations were originally outlined in a proposal earlier in the year. This move has been criticized on both ends of the scale; while the Food and Drink Federation labelled the ban "over the top", others have said the restrictions do not go far enough (particularly due to the fact that soap operas would be exempt from the ban). On 1 April 2007, junk food advertisements were banned from programmes aimed at four to nine-year-olds. Such advertisements broadcast during programmes "aimed at, or which would appeal to," ten to fifteen-year-olds will continue to be phased out over the coming months, with a full ban coming into effect on 1 January 2009.
In Malaysia, fast food advertising during children's programmes was outlawed in 2007. However, it did not stop the fast food companies from advertising their products. Since the ban, McDonald's no longer advertise Happy Meal on other media except in their restaurants and fast food advertising is mainly broadcast during prime-time (in Malaysia, prime time starts from 8:30 pm to 12:00 am).
Several international fast food companies have sponsored sporting events, teams and leagues. McDonald's is one of the largest sponsors, having affiliations with the NHL, Olympic Games, and the FIFA World Cup. Several companies, including McDonald's, Burger King and Pizza Hut, have a history of sponsoring NASCAR teams.
Some fast food companies sponsor television programmes. Domino's Pizza have sponsored Sky One's screenings of The Simpsons in the UK for many years (But reported because of new regulation on advertising that the deal may end). In 2005 Pizza Hut sponsored the same programme when it was shown on Channel 4 – the Sky/Domino's deal continued.
- Burger King advertising
- The Burger King
- Burger King Kingdom
- Burger Wars
- McDonald's advertising
- Ronald McDonald
- Taco Bell chihuahua
- Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's, who appeared in over 800 commercials for the chain from 1989 until his death in 2002
- Where's the beef?
- Ads Compared to Reality (article)
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