Here’s How Fast-Food Ads Hook Kids on Junk

A new video details how the industry plays on biology and psychology to sell more burgers and fries to children.

Our brains are hardwired to crave fat and sugar—a fact marketers take advantage of. (Mythbusters/

Sep 30, 2013· 0 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

“We know what you want,” is the ominous tagline of MegaBurgers, the fictional chain “Food MythBuster” Anna Lappé uses to illustrate how the fast-food industry targets children with its products and advertising.

In her latest film, which launched last week, Lappé asks about burgers and French fries, “Are these foods really what kids want? Or are they what corporations are pushing on our kids?”

Considering the industry spends $2 billion per year on ads targeting kids and, as Lappé describes, augments that psychological pitch by playing on the salt-and-fat craving biology of the human brain, it would certainly seem so.

It all seems like a calculated, insidious effort to feed kids nothing but fast food—one that may be impossible to defeat. But the video ends on a promising note, highlighting successful efforts to curb fast-food expansion, kid-targeted ads, and marketing that relies more on child-friendly characters and toys than any nutritional realities.

“Let’s choose policies to put healthy food within the reach of everyone,” she says, “and let’s demand that companies stop using cartoon characters to tell kids what to eat.”