Advertisement is not an end in itself. Its strategies are developed to pursuit certain goals, including commercial ones. In the modern Western societies, culture simply cannot be excluded from the mechanisms of the market. On the contrary, companies resort to the popular values and beliefs to create an image for their products that will have a positive impact on customers. To this end, McDonald’s marketing comprises a lot of treats, playgrounds, and ads targeting children. In addition, they are attracted by “Happy Meal” kit toys that come along with a hamburger and cola. The collection of toys is frequently updated after the releases of new cartoons or movies. The “happy food” characters are wrapped in fancy bags. Besides the fact that McDonald’s is almost at every place where one can go, kids bring the toys home, gathering their collections. The fast-food company becomes a part of one’s life. It is, therefore, important to find out whether such a broad impact leads to positive effects on the kids’ development. It is hard to believe, but the purpose of the use of toys by a company such as McDonald’s is based solely on their significant contribution to business’s success, because they are a means of value-emotional influence and choices’ manipulation that majorly affect the consciousness of children. The mentioned means are the substantial elements of the fast-food companies marketing strategies.
The hidden premise of the proposed enthymeme is that advertising affects children more than their parents’ opinion. In fact, on the contrary, it is a child who influences adults’ food preferences. Moreover, if they are unable to resist, the situation is at a deadlock. In turn, for a start, children begin to think that food tastes better if they are certain that it was produced by a large company of a well-known brand. The meal merely has to be framed as appropriate. To this end, toys and other techniques involve kids, who, at the same time, persuade adults. There is a sad reality behind the smiling Ronald McDonald. As any other businesses, fast-food chain is interested in making money and generating large profits. One of the main objectives of multinational companies is to expend as much as possible by opening more franchises. However, the continued growth implies the restriction of freedom of choice and the destruction of local food culture, not to mention the local producers. Although McDonald’s advertises its products as useful, in reality, they are harmful meals that contain a lot of fat, sugar, and salt, but are low in fiber and vitamins. They are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. The problem lies in the very title of advertising. Fast-food does not require spending a lot of time for cooking. In a society, where all are concerned about making money and career, time-saving is a great gift. People are even ready to pay for it with their own health. Children are no exception. They neither think about their health condition, nor appreciate it. It is taken for granted. However, the love of children for such products is not due to time savings, because they are not doing the cooking. The emphasis is placed on fun, which a child can receive by spending time at McDonald’s playgrounds or with the “Happy Meal” toys at home. In the commercials, people are shown highly pleased by using the targeted product. They have all the worries taken care of. Children, too, have problems that seem to them as very serious. In consuming the advertised foods, they find an opportunity to forget about such issues. As a result, they unconsciously choose promoted products not because they really want to drink or eat. The consumption simply becomes necessary, as it promises kids peace and social status among their peers.
One method of advertising that affects the consciousness of children is substitute. It implies that a particular brand or the application of its products becomes equal to and is substituted by a concept related to the wide-spread, common values. Product’s mission is what often stands for the application of positive and valuable images, concepts, and words. In this case, a rather narrow use of the product is replaced by a broader and more positive colored idea associated with the product’s role. For example, in some of the McDonald’s’ commercials, intended for an audience of children, specific products and services are replaced by the image of the world full of adventures and miracles. This is usually facilitated by videos equipped with excerpts from Disney or other cartoons. Such a substitute is based on value-emotional influence. A person gets involved in the external form, the expressiveness of persuasive messages, as well as prestige of a source. In such cases, the actions suggested in advertising are a form of psychological pressure, either verbal or figurative. Such influence leads to uncritical acceptance or adoption of any information. Frank argued that today’s consumerism is not associated with conformity, but difference. According to this author, “advertising teaches us not in the ways of puritanical self-denial.” It is based on “orgiastic, never-ending self-fulfillment” and is individual in nature (166). One can claim that the same connection is observed in McDonald’s’ toys for children. Kids simply cannot own all of the fancy characters. The kind of a set that each individual may have is, therefore, quite unique. This quality produces a desire to collect as many toys as possible. Furthermore, Solomon, in his Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising, described the other method that is effectively used to affect the minds of children. He argued that there were two sides to the stories such as the American Dream one. The author analyzed and examined various advertisements proving that marketing uses the knowledge about people and culture in order to “manipulate” choices. While a person may believe in equal opportunities, one also desires “rising about the crowd competing with others for “privilege and distinction” (544). The American Dream consists of two faces, “the one communally egalitarian and the other competitively elitist” (543). The understanding of this controversy is what arms advertisers, such as McDonald’s, in their attacks on consumers. They essentially manipulate people into buying their offerings. Moreover, they modify an individual’s behavior instead of presenting the information about the product. By looking at various ads, one can calculate the intended audience and quite a bit about its values. McDonald’s marketing is based on a perception of America as a nation of fantasies and fantasizes. There are certain conditions that stand behind its enormous success. Subconscious dreams of consumer’s are the raw materials that are used to shape the minds by appealing to their needs and desires. McDonald’s owes its popularity to marketing that transformed hamburgers into sings. They stand for all there is desirable in American’s lives. Solomon demonstrated how its advertisement affected various groups. According to the author, the company got on quite a personal level with children. They can have fun at the restaurant on any of their most favorite holidays. They are told in the series of cheery commercials that they can join other kids in playing and having fun with a range of different fantastic themes. This advertising demonstrates how McDonald’s takes care of children, thus, attracting them and their families.
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One could argue that advertising does not appear to have any negative impact on the mind of a child. Most of what it can achieve is to lay the cultural premises for the future. In general, nothing bad will happen to the kids. Moreover, psychologists and advertisers, too, need to make money and feed their children. Hence, the use of toys in the advertisement presents no moral problems. If it is not prohibited by law, it is allowed. If it is forbidden, it can be circumvented. At least, one can assume that the moral aspect of the problem is greatly exaggerated. It is true that advertising is often false. However, it is a part of people’s lives in the modern society, and children must learn to distinguish advertising from real life from an early age. It is an indispensable element of growing up, including learning to understand who and what is to be trusted. Family and school have to educate children, not advertising. In addition, one can say that modern advertising is a part of the socialization of children. It teaches them to navigate the adult world of commodity-money relations. Therefore, mass advertising is a blessing.
However, such counterarguments can be effectively addressed by considering the following. It is pretty obvious that young children, specifically pre-school children, cannot yet filter data. Similarly to a sponge, kids absorb everything that surrounds them. Multiples of commercials do not cause a sense of irritation in children of this age. On the contrary, they are willing to endlessly watch videos and play with toys, even if they are the same advertising products and cartoon characters. Surprisingly, their interest does not get weakened in any way. First of all, kids of this age category are attracted by the picture/toy itself including its bright and saturated colors. The meaning of the advertising message here is not that important. It is seen sitting unconsciously. Thus, the child falls completely under the authority of advertising. One can observe kid’s attention obediently following the rapidly changing pictures. Furthermore, the long pastime of watching television interferes with the development of mental abilities in children. Their consciousness is gradually becoming a repository of stamps and stereotypes, which are later reproduced in unaltered form. Young ones simply lack proper mechanisms of critical thinking about media. Moreover, today, advertisers and advertisers, such as McDonald’s, are making every effort to get an early start of “material” setting. This means that, while growing up, children will evaluate their relevance building on what they own, rather than on the basis of their personal qualities. Self-identification will become possible only through the drawing up of a list of the consumed brands, promoted by a massive advertising. The impossibility of possessing a complete list, such as the entire set of “Happy Meal” characters, will lead to a formation of inferiority complex.
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There is no doubt that advertising has an impact on the formation of the minds of people, especially children. In the Western society, the subconscious of individuals often depends on a number of factors such as the entertainment media. Television, movies, music, and advertising have a strong influence on the people’s choices. This certainly applies to the US, where large number of children suffers from obesity. Many American parents underestimate the associated health risks. Nonetheless, there are many other issues causing the people to suffer, as well as a lot of attractive, fantastic ways of solving them. Companies simply draw the “right” images based on the popular values. People get involved in the external form, the expressiveness of a message, and prestige of a source. These specific features are applied by advertisers, such as McDonald’s, to emotionally manipulate individuals into making choices in favor of the company’s products. “Happy Meal” kit is a great example of such technique. It is based on the sense of individualism and, at the same time, appealing to a group. The overall element behind McDonald’s success is the ability of its managers to turn the company’s products into signs of what is most desired in the American life. This has a negative effect on children’s development in terms of promoting unhealthy life-style, impeding their critical thinking, and stimulating the formation of inferiority complex in the future.
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