31 May 2014

Games and apps advertising junk food ‘should be banned’

An academic calls for “advergames” aimed at children to be banned, saying junk food companies are designing mobile phone apps to advertise their products.

Companies including McDonald’s and Coca-Cola should be stopped from designing apps and online games that advertise their products directly to children, according to a leading marketing academic.

Channel 4 Dispatches has found that junk food companies are exploiting a legal loophole to design games on smartphones, tablets and computers targeted at children.

Dr Haiming Hang of the University of Bath told the Daily Telegraph the practice raises “fundamental questions”.

“The government needs to enforce labelling and introduce regulation on a par with television advertising,” he said.

“Companies are manipulating children into wanting food and drinks that are high in salt, sugar and fat.”

An academic calls a ban on mobile phone app games that advertise junk food

In an undercover investigation, Dispatches found children are being targeted regularly by “big name brands marketing fattening food in the games children play”.

Companies have been banned from advertising foods that are high in fat, sugar and salt since 2007, but the rules do not include internet games or apps.

Gillian Naomi Martin told Channel 4 News on Facebook it was a “good idea” to cut out advertising to kids where possible, adding it was an “even better idea to make sure parents and carers spend time doing other, active things with their kids, so the games don’t take on too much of a significance in their lives”.