Toy giveaways are synonymous with kids’ fast food meals. US industry codes say that toys and other giveaways will not be the main feature of any ads.
A US study found that in TV ads promoting kids’ fast food meals, the giveaways featured more heavily —in terms of words and visual airtime—than the food itself. This contradicts the industry codes and shows that industry codes have no impact, particularly when their compliance isn’t monitored or enforced.
In Australia, the same code on marketing to children says advertisements should only refer to such giveaways (called premiums) incidentally. However, the code says the toys that come with kids’ fast food meals are part of the product and not a separate premium so they are exempt from this clause. This provides a perfect loophole to exclude the main food companies that offer toys with their kid’s meals from this clause and once again demonstrates that industry codes do little to protect kids from persuasive advertising tactics and that government regulation is needed.
Emond JA, et al. Promotion of Meal Premiums in Child-Directed TV Advertising for Children’s Fast-food Meals. Pediatrics. 2021.