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Unethical advertisement and children’s well-being

Updated on July 9, 2014

Certain advertisements may have a negative effect on our children’s well-being!

It has been identified in recent years that children have become very important to today’s marketers. ‘Junk food’ and toys are being advertised to children everyday, and the children do not have the knowledge to distinguish between healthy food that is good for them and food that is unhealthy. In consequence, it can be clearly seen, children and junk food is one of unethical advertising's main concern.

Another concern is the use of sex in ads. It appears that the use of sex to sell is everywhere, where most adverts have some sort of sexual attraction in it to stimulate the viewer. An additional concern, which may surprise you, lays in most charity advertisements. Shock tactics in ads are used by charities to shock the viewers in order to make them feel guilty and shocked. Here studies have shown that approximately 50% of people would donate after shock tactics were applied.

In the following article you will read about the ways in which these three types of advertisements may affect you child’s well-being.

Types of ads which could affect your child’s well-being:

  1. Junk Food ads
  2. Ads that make use of sexual images
  3. Charities SHOCK TACTICS in ads

Fast Food Ads target our kids

Junk Food Ads and Childhood Obesity!

Junk food:

Advertising agencies know that children are not able to tell the difference between “Junk food” and healthy, nutritious food, and unfortunately they exploit this to their advantage. McDonald's has also identified this and their advertisements, target young children, as they have realized that children represent their future, loyal consumers (Markatos, 2006). So, they attract children by including “give-away” toys in children meals, as well as offering playgrounds at their restaurants; have you seen their latest advertisement with “what is it with kids and boxes”?

‘Junk food’ manufactures, such as McDonald's and Burger King also use colors catchy music or even a clown to advertise high protein food. The ramification however and risks of eating such high protein food ‘repeatedly’ are not stated ‘anywhere’, although it is supported by studies, that this behavior may cause obesity or other health problems (Markatos, 2006). This food is considered by nutritionists as unhealthy, but still the youth is attracted to it due to the advertising campaign.

Regulations of such advertising practices should be closely analysed and monitored by authorities as well as regulated due to children’s limited ability of understanding techniques used by marketers to sell to them.

Books which could help raise awareness in kids concerning the effects of "Junk Food"

Calvin Klein Ad


The use of sex:

Sex or lust, is one of advertisers latest tools to promote their products. The use of sex in advertisement is being used increasingly and indications are that this can also have an effect on children. Companies like Calvin Klein, Armani and D & G, use naked, or half-naked, models and sometimes simulating sex practices to advertise their products. These adverts are shown everywhere, from buses to on-television. It can be considered that this has a direct impact on children as they could easily be exposed to this kind of advertising. Therefore, the sex images used could draw a child to copy a certain behavioral manner and further more adept that manner, due to the fact that children observe and learn from the characters showed in advertisements (Courtney & Whipple, 1983).

Channels like MTV show video clips and adverts that use sex or have sexual images. These adverts use sex to build up and stimulate the viewer before the brand is advertised. This is where again we ask, are these approaches ethical? The role that ethics play in using sexual appeals in advertising is that there is a fine line between what people find acceptable and what they think is unacceptable. The main thing to bear in mind is what the product or service being sold is and who is the targeted consumer (Blair, Stephenson, Hill & Green 2006).

Nevertheless, such ads use female and male models, which appear to have particular body types. Women models are often thin with large breasts whereas men models typically have a build up body. Although these sexual images may not sell to children they will, more likely, catch their attention and may even remain in their memory. Moreover the issue here is that these images stereotype the female and male body types therefore affecting the child’s perception of an acceptable body when it grows up. For instance, if he or she does not have this type of body, feelings of insecurity as well as feelings of low self-esteem may arise because they will feel inadequate to the models.

Sex in Advertising

When do charity shock-ads go too far? (in this video some images may be found a bit disturbing for some)

Charities and SHOCK tactics:

‘Charities’ although performing sterling work are often culprits of very unethical behavior when it comes to advertising. In many advertising campaigns charities purposefully elect to make use of poor children or children that are terminally ill or scenes were insects such as cockroaches are coming out there mouth. This is called ‘Shock Tactics’. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA, 2009) has stated, “Shocking images have long been used by charities to grab people’s attention. Whether it’s a young girl drinking cooking oil or a baby with a cockroach in its mouth, visually powerful images can be an effective way of raising awareness of important issues’’.

A Study on shock tactics effectiveness was conducted by the ASA. They suggested that after Bernardo’s advertising campaign (2008) regarding domestic child abuse a raise of fifty per cent was found in the donations made by people. They also found that hits on the Bernardo’s website were twice as much in comparison with the year before. However, there was a consequence as letters which were sent to the ASA showed that after the advertising campaign people adopted extreme opposing views, as some found several scenes distressing and as a result Bernardo’s lost the support of several people.

In addition, if a child sees a charity advertisement, which uses shocking images or tactics, it is more likely that the child will not fully understand why these children are being shown like this. Consequentially this could have an effect on the child in a negative way such as causing shock, distress or fear.


Advertising may play a huge role in a child’s development into an adult. Certain advertisements that children see have an effect on them, if not immediately then in the near future. As I have already mentioned in my previous article on “Unethical advertisement and Children” even ads directed to adults; including alcohol and cigarettes adverts could have dramatic effects on children who see them, maybe causing an early and heavy alcohol consumption habit.

Unfortunately, unethical advertisements will have an effect on our children in the long run depending on how unethical the ads are however, gaining awareness of this issue may help minimize these negative effects. Bear in mind that advertisers will not stop so easily. So, it’s up to us to take care of our children’s future and make a difference.


Advertising Standards Authority (2009), "Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children,” Available from: Advertising Standards Authority, Web site: /Charity%20shock%20bb%20July09%20ecopy.ashx

Blair, J.D., Stephenson, J.D., Hill, K.L. & Green, J.S., (2006) “Ethics in advertising: Sex sells, but should it?” Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, Vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 109- 118.

Courtney, A. E. & Whipple, T. W. (1983), Sex stereotyping in advertising,Lexington, Toronto.

Markatos, G. (2006), "Time and competition in the fast food industry: The case of McDonald’s", The Cyprus Journal of Sciences, vol. 4, no. Pp. 177-185.


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    • Chris Achilleos profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Achilleos 

      6 years ago

      I absolutely agree with you teaches12345. It is really sad how money or politics may prevent prohibiting these ads which have been found harmful for children. It may take a lot of effort to stop them, but I believe we shouldn't give up and we should continue fighting for our children's well being.

      Thank you very much for reading, I truly appreciate your comments and vote.

      Have a wonderful day,


    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Great hub and one that all parents should read. It is appalling how much advertising uses sex to see products and ideas, and it is sublimal. The truth is the government regulations prohibits this type of advertising but it seems that politics or money has prevented them from acutally enforcing it. As you say, it would take a lot to stop companies from using this form of advertising. Sad. Voted up.

    • Chris Achilleos profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Achilleos 

      6 years ago

      I am very glad you have found the information interesting billdo1603. Thanks for stopping by!


    • billd01603 profile image


      6 years ago from Worcester

      Very interesting and factual Hub. Thanks for writing

    • Chris Achilleos profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Achilleos 

      6 years ago

      Thank you sarifearnbd :)

    • Chris Achilleos profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Achilleos 

      6 years ago

      Many thanks for reading and leaving your kind comments dilipchandra12. I am very glad you enjoyed this topic. Your support and vote are truly appreciated.

    • dilipchandra12 profile image

      Dilip Chandra 

      6 years ago from India

      Very good hub. There should be a check over the advertisements. Great work! Voted UP

    • Chris Achilleos profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Achilleos 

      6 years ago

      Exactly, "our children are our future", I totally agree with you homesteadbound.

      We shouldn't let businesses, which use these sort of ads, to turn our children into what they want them to be. We should fight for our children's well-being, and one way to begin is by helping them become aware of this vital matter.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I hope you find my other hubs on this topic interesting.

    • Chris Achilleos profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Achilleos 

      6 years ago

      Thank you for stopping by nancymaggielee. I have heard that fast food restaurants use something to make people addicted to their food however, I haven't researched it in more depth to see what it was called. Maybe I should look into MSG more, to find the existing research behind it. It would be good to mention it in my hub on Junk Food and Obesity, which I am currently working on. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      6 years ago from Texas

      This hub is so true. Advertising continues to test the bounds, and no one seems to be drawing the line. And our children are our future ... we affect them, and we affect our future. Who knows what that all holds for us....

    • nancymaggielee profile image


      6 years ago

      The "M" in McDonald's should stand for MSG, or monosodium glutamate. Most fast food restaurants use MSG on their food to make it taste better and cause people to become addicted to it, especially kids. MSG has been shown to be toxic and has been linked to many major health problems.

    • Chris Achilleos profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Achilleos 

      6 years ago

      Webash annie, thank you so much for your very kind and encouraging comments. I am very glad that I gave out a message with my hub. It's vital for people to become aware of this matter because it's really messing with adults and children's minds, most importantly affecting people's well-being.

      Take care

    • wabash annie profile image

      wabash annie 

      6 years ago from Colorado Front Range

      What a fantastic message ... so needed. We all must refrain from purchasing products that advertise using misleading claims or information and those who use sexual enticements in their promotions. Thanks much for providing much needed reminders.

    • Chris Achilleos profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Achilleos 

      6 years ago

      Yes, and unfortunately other countries are following the same path, unless of course we all begin to do something about it.

      Many thanks for stopping by and commenting cleaner3!

      Take care.

    • cleaner3 profile image


      6 years ago from Pueblo, Colorado

      Chris .. this is a great hub .

      The television is an evil object sometimes .. it tends to be controlled by the corporate intrests which only want to manipulate our way of life .. it has turned our country into something it isn't... by espousing a twisted sense of what America is .


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