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The Science Behind Fast Food Marketing

How do fast food companies use science to fuel their advertisements?

        With obesity plaguing America today, we need to take a step back and look at the overarching theme that is partially responsible: advertisements. Around every street corner there’s a billboard, and on every TV, there’s an ad that shows a burger dripping with water from the fresh veggies. Merely by looking at this, we feel the need to consume—so how do these fast food companies use science to fuel their advertisements?

        Fast food companies use a variety of tactics to make their food look fresh and healthy. Some companies, for example, use undercooked burger patties because they appear more plump and fresh. Veggies and toppings are pinned into place, and even ketchup is carefully applied with a syringe. [1] For cereal ads, glue is used so that the cereal stays in place and doesn’t get soggy. Almost all of these are also digitally altered in some way to look more appealing.

        This goes beyond the food itself though. Our brain experiences some of the largest increases in cerebral blood flow when exposed to images of desirable foods. Adding food aroma effects make this effect even more pronounced. In terms of the brain’s response to images of palatable foods, research shows widespread activation of a host of brain areas, including the taste and reward areas; the magnitude of this increase in neural activity is dependent on the hunger and obesity of the person. Along with that, food is put into motion, as that makes it scientifically more appealing to us. [3] Our brain is trained to fixate on objects in motion, so seeing the food move instantly focuses our attention on it.

        These advertisements are also meant to target children who may encounter them either on TV or as they explore. The food and beverage industry spends approximately $2 billion per year marketing to children, and kids watch an average of ten food-related ads every day. [2] The marketing is meant to appeal to children, as they are more susceptible to influence done by this marketing.

        With obesity and dietary-related health issues on the rise in the United States, it is important to watch out for what may be inadvertently influencing us. It’s important to watch what we eat and to get the appropriate nutrients every day!



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