The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of the danger to children of advertising of foods with high amounts of fat, salt and sugar through social networks or video games, as they promote childhood obesity.
A report published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe encourages immediate action to respond to the abuse of such advertising, hidden in digital media.
In the absence of norms that effectively regulate digital media, children are exposed to persuasive marketing techniques through social networks, called “advergames“, ie video games made at the request of a company to advertise a brand, WHO said.
“Our governments have given the highest political priority to the prevention of childhood obesity, but we see that children are exposed to digital marketing techniques that promote foods with high fat, sugar and salt content,” said the regional director of WHO for Europe.”
She explained that parents may not know the negative impact of this type of advertising because they do not see the same ads or do not observe their children’s Internet activity, so “many underestimate the scope of the problem.”
Digital advertising can be distributed across various platforms; Videos, social networks or cartoons, but also through people with influence, such as videobloggers or youtubers – opinion leaders in blogs and Youtube.
“More than 60% of overweight children before puberty are overweight in the early stages of their adulthood and approximately 25% of school age children in Europe are already overweight or obese,” explained the director of Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Health Promotion of the WHO Region for Europe.
“This augurs a bleak future, as we know that overweight and obesity are key factors contributing to cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes,” he warned.”
On the other hand, the European Union has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the “obesity epidemic” that floods the continent and affects 44% of the population, that is, 200 million people, of whom 400,000 are children. The advertising campaign promotes physical exercise and a healthy diet.
Author and journalist Clemente Ferrer has led a distinguished career in Spain in the fields of advertising and public relations. He is currently President of the European Institute of Marketing.