Stop Being Sweet

You Were Brainwashed to Love Sugar

Clown, like huh?

In August of 2016, the advertising company Omnicon won McDonald’s advertising business, which is worth nearly 1 billion dollars.

If McDonald’s is spending a billion dollars to convince us to purchase their fast food, that means consumers are spending even more to actually consume it.

McDonald’s marketing is often directed at kids and there’s a good reason for that. Here’s what they’re doing when they target children:

You Were Easy Prey

Starting July 1, 2017, Britain will regulate ads for junk food targeted at kids. Here in the USA, governmental regulations are often seen as being against our founding principles. What’s more, regulations are hard to pass so kids remain fair game for large corporations. The result is that contentious parents have to shelter their kids, educate them about the dangers of eating too much junk food, or both.

Some folks argue there is nothing wrong with companies targeting kids—it’s good business, after all. It’s not just McDonald’s that does it. Soda sellers, cereal makers, cookie bakers, and candy producers all do it.

“We were advertised to when we were kids,” defenders of the practice say, “And we turned out okay.”

We now have the highest rates of obesity in generational history—hardly okay. If there is no nutritional value in the food product that is being pushed at our kids, maybe we should question the ethics of the company that’s doing the pushing.

Why They Do It

Stick some sugar in a bottle of water and shake it up. Mix some artificial sweetener with flour and add some colored food dye. Hardly sexy but that’s how companies make a food product. Why would someone buy one processed food product over the next? The answer lies in branding and advertising.

In order to get noticed, they slap a cartoon character on the label. Maybe add some elves, a tiger, a polar bear, or a clown. They shape the flour goodie like a cloud, star, moon, or clover. They add a cool logo, mix in some fizz, and say it contains energy. Then the companies make commercials that appeal to kids and get the product into the places they frequent at a price they can afford.

They relentlessly push the stuff. They get the kids to smile and make them think that if they eat the junk, life will be more fun. They reward the kids for eating or drinking their processed snack food by giving them added value in the form of a franchise tie-in. In other words, they partner with major motion pictures so kids see movie stars eating brand-name crappy cakes onscreen. Then they give kids a t-shirt with an ad for their product on the front.

What You Can Do About It

You were a kid once. You remember what it was like to peel back the wrapper and bite into your favorite whatever bar. You may have taught a kid how to savor that flavorful moment by feeding them junk food and modeling the behavior. If so, don’t do that anymore.

Have you ever been in a strange town and stopped in an old store only to discover that they carry that weird brand of super junk you once loved as a kid (but haven’t seen for years)? You purchased a package just for the sake of nostalgic eating and found out it was nothing like you remembered. Wax bottles full of sweet water or colored sugar dots on strips of paper come to mind. Yuck. You’ve moved on to more sophisticated, adult-style sweets.

However, the fact that you’re at might indicate that advertising’s influence had a negative impact on you. We colloquially call it sugar addiction. It’s not just the sweet taste that keeps you going back for more. It’s not just the negative physical reaction that stems from not getting your fix. It’s also your mentality towards sweets, which was partially shaped by the companies that make and sell you the stuff.

Think about that. The company that sells you junk food helped form how you actually perceive junk food. No wonder you know it’s bad for you and yet you keep eating it because you think it will make you happy.

Try this: choose a junk food ad campaign off the top of your head. Pick one that stems from your childhood. Something like “They’re great!” or, “Hey Mikey, he likes it!” or, “Where’s the beef?!”

Think about how that advertising campaign worked it’s magic on your personal identity. Do you like the brand associated with the meme you remember? Like it or not, it’s in you and it effects your purchasing decisions to this day. Keep that in mind when you go looking for a snack at a store or in your kitchen.

Next time you are tempted to eat sweets, recall the ad campaign memory and see if it fits into your decision making process to satisfy your temptation. You might be surprised to hear, “You deserve a break today,” or some such mantra playing in your head. Are you gonna do what they tell you to do?

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Comments 4



I can proudly say that it’s been 31 years (as of last month) since I have eaten McDonald’s food, and I’ve never missed it.  I did like it as a kid (it was a rare treat) and as a teenager (a favorite go-to spot).  But once into my mid 20’s and trying to eat healthier, I quit eating it, along with BK, and Wendy’s.  Ironically, McDonald’s advertising helped to turn me off of it, because of the way they portrayed their customers.  In one advertising campaign, they showed customers high-fiving over “double fries”, with giant grins on their faces.  It made me think that if McD’s thinks that I’m such a rube that I would get all jolly about double fries, then I don’t want to eat there.

I stopped drinking soda 31 years ago, and luckily was never influenced by the soda companies advertising to drink it again.

But I know what you mean about eating something that you might have liked as a kid -  for me it’s Snickers or Butterfingers candy bars.  I think that goes back to trick or treating as a kid, and those bars kind of take me back there.

Haven’t had any sugar since a week ago Sunday.  I’m not trying to give it up 100% forever, but I am limiting it.  I keep reinforcing the thought that sugar really is toxic to our systems and causes a lot of damage to our bodies.  Makes it a lot easier to say no to sweets when I keep that in mind.



Trick-or-treating!  That’s why I eat sweets around Halloween. I’d have some serious FOMO if I didn’t.

rivka willick


It’s not just Junk Food that is advertised and pushed on us, but JUNK STORIES come at us from all directions. There’s profit in hooking people and creating systems to keep them coming back. We are losing our ability to sustain even a small amount of discomfort.

I’m doing a series on JUNK STORIES.  I’d love to get your imput. /07/11/how-to-identify-junk-stories- article-3-in-a-series-of-8/



Hi Rivka, I’ll check out your post. I imagine junk food and junk stories go hand-in-hand. Food for thought…

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